Newspapers: We've Affiliated With TV Stations, But Not Truly Integrated
Researchers at Ball State University have taken what they say is the first comprehensive look at the impact of these partnerships. According to the newly released findings, these media organizations, for the most part, continue to operate independently as they struggle to find common ground.
Ball State found that within its survey of 372 newspaper editors, roughly 30 percent were involved in news-gathering relationships with television stations.
And while some reported a healthy working relationship, the majority of survey respondents do not regularly leverage cross-promotional opportunities.
"Cross-promotion has not happened at a high rate," said Larry Dailey, a journalism professor from Ball State's Center for Media Design.
The problem, said Dailey, is that these arrangements have been forged between natural competitors. "Newspapers have a fear--If TV wants to scoop us they can," he said. "They might beat us with our own stories."
Also, both newspapers and local TV news organizations invest heavily in branding themselves, and don't want to risk diluting any equity they have achieved.
Dailey says that much of the convergence in the media resulted from fears in the 1990s that companies like Microsoft would begin encroaching on the world of local news (with products like the former local search portal www.sidewalk.com).
"Media folks thought that this would be the wave of the future," said Dailey. But as the Internet threat to local domains appears to have subsided, so has the reason for many of these partnerships. "The urgency seems to have gone away," Dailey said.
Yet given the ongoing shifts in media consumption, the two media may need each other more than ever. "For both local TV news and newspapers, the long-term prospects are not good," Dailey said.
That is particularly the case with newspapers, which inherently cannot compete with TV news on certain fronts. "Newspapers need to figure out what their role is going forward--to break news or to explain news," he said. "Against TV, they are never going to win."
Dailey suggests that such partnerships may work best on a project-by-project basis, where news organizations collaborate on a specific news topic in a comprehensive fashion while continuing to compete over reporting the news of the day. Different media may be more successful by developing specialties rather than trying to be all things to all users.
Ball State's study will continue, with parts two and three due in 2005. Bailey said that it is difficult to draw any sweeping conclusions on the University's findings. "Each situation and each partnership will be different," he said. "Each market will have to define this."
Among the study's other highlights:
- Newspapers are willing to share story budgets and lineups with their television partners, but attempt to retain stories considered "exclusives."
- About 44 percent of the editors said they are selective in what they share; 16 percent said they never share; and 12.3 percent hold back stories on which they have a competitive advantage over their partner.
- Newspapers rarely encourage readers to view enterprise stories that are run by their partners. About 8 percent of newspaper editors said they urge readers to view those stories at least once a week, while 65.7 percent never do.
- About 70 percent of newspapers do not spend any time during news meetings discussing how to promote their partner's content.
- About 51 percent never share the cost of special projects or investigations with their partners.