MMC executive director Michael P. Smith, says "For several years we have heard that it is the journalists' resistance to change that was holding newspapers back... this study shows that they are ready, and some are even impatient, for change."
Now it appears that America's journalists want a quicker transformation from print to digital delivery of the news, a study of almost 3,800 people in a cross-section of newspaper newsrooms shows. Many of these journalists are heavily engaged in digital activities in their personal lives and would like to devote more effort to digital products at work. But most of their time in the newsroom is still spent on print responsibilities. Only 20% of the workforce like things the way they are or yearn for the good old days.
Life Beyond Print, a study by Vickey Williams, Stacy Lynch and Bob LeBailly, assembles profiles of six types of journalists inhabiting the typical newspaper newsroom in 2009. They range from the "Digitals" (12% of the workforce) who spend a majority of their efforts online today, to the "Turn Back the Clock" contingent (6%), who long for the day when print was king.
Fully half of newsroom workers wish to do "Moderately More" online, arriving at something closer to an equal split with their print efforts, requiring a doubling of the effort they spend today. Those in the "Major Shift" profile (11%) would devote five times their current effort to online if given their druthers.
Newspaper journalists still love their jobs: Despite industry turmoil:
Online desire in the newsroom is not determined by age, years of journalism experience, or proximity to retirement. And youth is not a factor in predicting who in the newsroom wants to move into digital. Rather, the top two predictors of digital appetite are heavy Internet use outside work and having knowledge of online audiences and their preferences.
Previous Readership Institute research has proven the importance of customer knowledge as a first step in building media use, says the report. Real customer focus also includes acting on the results and letting customer needs drive internal decision-making. This study offers a new reason why knowing the audience is important... it helps stimulate a desire to transition to online work. Other predictors of digital appetite include:
The study creates these profiles of journalists:
Digitals, about 12% of the workforce, spend most of their time working online. They're the youngest group, with an average age of 38, and 59% believe the digital transformation is taking too long in their newsroom. They follow big-picture trends, want to quicken the pace These journalists are most likely to be online editors or producers, but about 17% are reporters or writers. Overall, they're newer to journalism than any other group.
Digitals score highly on factors that relate to adaptability - such as openness to change and work and career proactivity. They're similar to leaders in this and many other respects. They're most apt to describe themselves as the first to try something new at work and as having career options.
In a key finding, digital employees label themselves markedly more knowledgeable about consumers of digital, and at the same level of print reader knowledge as their print counterparts. Overall they are much more aware of customer behaviors and needs.
Major Shift, at 11%, are the most dissatisfied with their current state, more pessimistic about staying in the business long-term and want the most pronounced change. This group - roughly an equal mix of reporters, mid-level editors, copy editors, designers and videographers, most of whom have been in the business at least 15 years - would like to devote five times their current effort to online. They're deeply engaged online in their personal lives, but see a disconnect at work. They could help the newsroom adapt faster, but need a sign they should stay in newspapers.
Moderately More, the largest segment at 50% and encompassing many reporters and mid-level editors, want a roughly equal split between online and print work. Half the newsroom believes their newsroom transition has been too slow and would be comfortable seeing their job duties shift moderately more online. But by nearly a 2-1 margin, they believe the newsroom is headed in the right direction.
Some of the Moderately More defining characteristics include:
The Status Quo segment, at 14%, believe the 30% of effort they currently devote to online is sufficient and expect little disruption to the way they work now. In newsrooms where improving digital performance is a top strategic priority, this group will need a wake-up call. These journalists believe the evolution of newspapers has gone far enough. Just less than a third of their current effort centers online and they would prefer to see no change.
Most of the Status Quos believe the pace of change to date has been "about right," whether in respect to their own job or newsroom-wide change. They forecast more moderate or minimal changes to come than the rest of the newsroom. This group is slightly older than the overall population. Nearly half are age 50 or older and 1-in-10 is 60 or older.
If put in command, they would:
Turn Back the Clock segment represents 6% of journalists who wish it would all go away. This part of the staff would go more heavily into print if they could. They report about 30% of their current effort is spent online, nearly triple the amount they would prefer. This is a group that has tested the online environment and they don't like it.
This group weighs toward reporters and photographers and they closely mirror the newsroom average for age and years until retirement. What particularly sets them apart from others is their low levels of adaptability. Asked to rate themselves on openness to change, how they approach change at work, and career resilience, they rated significantly lower than other print employees and dramatically lower than digital employees or senior managers.
Individuals in this group report being less satisfied than their Status Quo colleagues. They also have the lowest opinion of leaders of all the groups and are least likely, in particular, to believe executives really understand what it takes to put out the newspaper.
Leaders, at 5%, are publishers, editors and managing editors, most of whom have been in the news business more than 20 years. Most report their roles are primarily print-focused but want to shift to online. Like Digitals, they describe themselves as open to change and optimistic about their career options.
The study concludes with challenge the leaders face:
In addition, there are differing expectations for leaders among the segments:
Please visit the Median Management Center here to read the more complete PDF version of the report.