Steven Brill's efforts with Journalism Online to get people to pay for real journalism seems like an unusual plan -- especially in light of all this free Internet stuff. Long-term, though, it seems to make sense -- especially in a world full of opinion and decreasingly less real news.
This ties in to what veteran TV news executive Andrew Heyward said recently: "We have an interesting thing going on. You have your CBS' 60 Minutes,' which this year had one of its best seasons in memory... [NPR's] 'All Things Considered' and 'Morning Edition' have 27 million listeners every week. That's an incredible scale of engagement."
All of which means U.S. viewers/listeners/news are still in need of news: original news and perspective.
What should TV executives do? Media analysts say to rid local TV newscasts of the stuff that really doesn't matter: those really big ratings-grabbers, like crime news, empty news stories, and a lot of entertainment/celebrity reporting.
Now that sounds like a recipe for disaster. Still, news organizations that are innovative -- that know the future won't come from glitzy TV newsrooms with fancy graphics and stiff-looking, beautiful news readers -- should stand a chance.
A short five minutes on a TV newscast can offer crucial big headlines. The reminder of a local TV news program's time should be devoted to other topics -- perhaps one, two, or three stories that could be looked at in depth.
It also comes down to this: Broadcasters need to find their own trick to narrowcasting, catering to different viewers and geographic areas at the same time. (Local multicast signals, anyone?)
Ratings are getting lower, ad revenues are increasingly harder to find. The old ways are turning off viewers more and more. The current supply of local vacuous stories has little value to viewers in the long term.
Local weather? I can get that over the Internet. Traffic? That comes from my Garmin. Sports scores? The national cable network, ESPN, can give me that. California's state budget problems? I might watch that on my local station. But don't give me a one-minute Cliffs Notes version.
Courageous news executives need to restructure newsrooms -- from scratch. Viewers need real value. The good news: In the future, viewers might pay directly for this value.