Commentary

3 Ways News Media Can Thrive In The New World

What happens now?

This question is being asked inside major news outlets across the U.S. Online and broadcast viewership for major news is down dramatically since the election.  Doomscrolling, or the activity of endlessly perusing through page after page on your phone’s news or social feeds, is down as well. 

We just don’t need to be focused on news quite as much as we did during the endless barrage of tweets and hyperbole that was the hallmark of the previous administration.  When I wake up in the morning and hop into the news sites on my phone, I find myself able to get through it all in 10 minutes rather than the previously designated hour-plus it used to require. 

The news is simpler now.  It is easier to digest.  It is no longer quite as divisive.  What do those changes mean for news outlets that rely on pageviews tied to ad revenue?

I read that The New York Times subscription base increased from around 2.5 million to 7.5 million during those last four years.  CNN and Fox viewership had both increased dramatically, as had MSNBC and all the rest of the news stations.

I also read, and please don’t quote me, that CNN prime-time viewership is down almost 50% from a year ago.  People need a break, but where are they going?  What are they going to do with that time, and how can the news outlets still thrive in an age where the news is not so dire and immediate all the time?

If this last year has proven anything, it is that the human species can adapt to anything.  Never again will I say anything is hopeless.  And that goes for the news media.  The U.S. government may not be the source of all the angst and anxiety that it once was, but these outlets still have three things going for them: audience, opinion and opportunity.

First off, these media channels have an audience that trusts them. I still do read the news once per day to make sure I know what’s going on, and can have a thoughtful perspective on whatever is happening.  Habits are hard to break, so just knowing that I (and may others) still come to these outlets daily gives them a chance to hook me. 

Opinions matter, whether you want to like this or not.  Many news outlets have, if nothing else, people working for them who have LOTS of opinions.  People tune in to hear what these pundits have to say, for better or for worse.  Opinions attract people.  It’s one of the reasons so many people watch “ESPN Sportscenter” endlessly (myself included).  We can get the sports news and highlights anywhere online these days, but we like to hear the opinions of people including Todd McShay and his mock drafts for the NFL.  Opinions from other people are interesting and they help us all form our own opinions.  This is not going away anytime soon.

Lastly, news outlets have  a very specific opportunity. They are trusted by their audience and they are able to convey a point of view.  They can also educate people to look at both sides of the arguments and be less one-sided.  News media has an opportunity to raise the level of everyday education for the masses.

The single biggest challenge facing the United States is a lack of quality education, and the news media could help if they so choose.  People come to you for insight -- so give it to them.  If you can take up that mantle, you could have a positive impact on everything that happens from here on out.

Here’s to the future of the news media.

2 comments about "3 Ways News Media Can Thrive In The New World".
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  1. Michael Schiferl from IPG, March 24, 2021 at 3:39 p.m.

    There's long been post-election decline in TV viewership going back many elections, not just 2020. And, there has also been migration of how and where people see TV content beyond watching on linear TV.  The bigger picture of "TV" is more reflective of how people consume info which is inherently multi-platform. (Any more than NYT is far more than a print "newspaper" only). We've seen episodic bounces in viewership, like CBS This Morning having all time high viewers (as well as 24M who watched via CBS' owned platforms, and likely millions more through shares/syndication). While ad buyers likely measure in ad terms, most realize the true reach of TV news isn't confined to TV viewership alone as a measure. The reach of many legacy outlets is exponetially greater than it was years earlier, just not on a singular platform.  The Twitter, FB, YT and other of many "TV stations" or "TV networks" surpasses viewership often.        

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, March 24, 2021 at 5:53 p.m.

    As far as TV news is concerned all that has happened is a return to more normal viewing ---in contrast to artificially hyped levels caused by the election and post-election hijinks as well as Covid-19. So now, the average adult will devote about 6 hours per week to TV news of various types instead of 8-9 hours while older adults will average twice that dosage.  TV news was highly profitable for the major cable news channels and most TV stations, though not as much for the broadcast TV networks--- and this is unlikely to change---so they will all be in about the same boat as before. As for the realtive standing of the three cable news biggies, time was when Fox reached more viewers per minute than  CNN and MSNBC combined--and then some. That gap has been substantially closed with CNN and MSNBC doing much better than several years back while Fox---though still leading---no longer is in its once dominant position.

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