opinion | How the economics of the news business changed the news itself


In unpleasant times – eg, now – nostalgia can be a narcotic. However, it’s worth looking back at a long time when newspapers were filled with ads for department stores, grocery stores, and automobile dealerships.

And the news, much of it troubling: The world is a fallen place, and, as journalists say, we don’t report planes that land safely. Nevertheless, newspapers mattered more, and functioned differently when they were adequately supported by advertisements from local businesses, rather than by digital subscriptions from readers, as is increasingly happening.

So argues Andrey Meir “How the media polarized usIn “Manhattan Institute’s” city ​​journal, The titles of Mir’s essays “Media” and “Newspaper”, treat his primary subject as synonymous. But social media and cable television have attracted newspapers.

Mir,” author ofPost Journalism and the Death of Newspapers“says that the Internet is criminal because it has destroyed monopoly newspapers, which were assembled for a broad audience of advertisers that advertisers value – rich and mature. Newspapers’ reliance on advertising ,” believes Mir, “determines their attitude towards their readers.” It was this respectful attitude towards readers who wish to make their own decisions and who are against political agendas advanced in reporting.

The collapse of the newspaper’s advertising-based business model began with the transfer of classified ads to the Internet. In 2000, he gave newspapers $19.6 billion – almost a third of the newspaper’s revenue. In 2013, Google’s advertising revenue of $51 billion surpassed the total advertising revenue of US newspapers at $23 billion. As of 2018, revenue from classifieds was just $2.2 billion. Advertisers quickly concluded, Meir says, that newspaper advertising was “an expensive and inefficient way of carpet-bombing its target audience.” And advertising revenue began to lag far behind readership revenue.

“Even the strongest American newspapers,” Meir says, “couldn’t hold up to advertisers: The New York Times began getting more revenue from readers than from ads in 2012.” Hence, “Journalism now sought new partners”: digital subscriptions, whose multiplicity may be fueled by anger and fear, fertilizers of polarization. The editors “stimulated the digital, urban, educated and progressive youth to the extent of political outrage.”

The newspaper’s advertising-based business model, appealing to the temperate middle of society, “restrained the inherently liberal tendencies of journalists.” The digital subscription business model “enhances the role of progressive discourse makers” — academics and other social-justice warriors — and “empowered activism as a mindset.” The new model is defined by “the intensity of self-expression in the search for feedback”. In the early 2010s, “the ad-determined need to appeal to the average American,” Meir says, was replaced by the pursuit of digital subscriptions from ideologically motivated readers.

The “awareness threshold”—60 percent of a group using social media—for urban, college-educated 18- to 49-year-olds was reached in 2011. A more conservative demographic crossed this threshold in 2016, the year of a political earthquake that gave mainstream media a commodity they could sell to digital customers – Donald Trump hailed as an “existential threat.”

Suddenly, Meir says, membership can be solicited as “donations to a cause”—”resistance,” and all that. “It took fear to turn the news into a commodity.” This new business model “made the media an agent of polarization.” Right-wing outlets quickly learned the new game of selling the frisson of fear rather than news—the fear of being “replaced” by demographics, K-12 political and sexual indoctrination, etc.

Meir believes that all of this has created a “post-journalism”, whereby the mainstream media supplies not news but “news verification”, a recognition of disturbing news “within certain value systems”. Is. This business model – the media as “agents of polarization” – results in the stratification of newspapers because, says Meir, it produces large rewards for only a few nationally significant newspapers:

“People want disturbing news to be validated by an official notary with as many followers as possible. Audiences only want to pay for flagship media, like new York Times either Washington Post, … Most of the subscription amount flows to a few behemoths. The new subscription model has not only polarized the media, but also increased media attention.”

Mir says that while journalism wanted his picture of the world to fit into the world, “post-journalism wanted the world to fit his picture.” This, he says, “is one definition of propaganda. Post-journalism has turned the media into crowdfunded ministries of truth.” Although he paints with a wide brush and some pastels, there is one adjective that fits his portrayal of today’s media world: newsworthy.

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