Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
March 6, 2009 9:11 PM

Incredible Sources

One of the primary complaints that traditional journalism and the newspaper industry has of the digital channel is that is lacks "credible sources."

The traditional mass media seems to have some kind of lock on "credible sources," and it's something that no digital channel can ever, really, lay claim to. Journalists are trained professionals. They ask the tough questions. They dig down deep, they get three independent sources to confirm any piece of information, they work their sources and spend countless hours tinkering with the right words to create the best story.

Are journalists the only group of writers who are above the rest? Would you expect something different from a chapter President of the Society of Professional Journalists? 

Betty Clapp is the Cleveland chapter president of the Society of Professional Journalists. In the February 27th, 2009 edition of their newsletter, Writer's Week, this was her "President's Message" titled, A Modest Proposal (the link is to a PDF file):

"It has been a tough week for newspapers. The parent company of two area newspapers, The Morning Journal in Lorain and The News-Herald in Willoughby, sought Chapter 11 protection last Saturday. That brings the industry crisis home. The changing nature of the business also dominated Plain Dealer editor Susan Goldberg's presentation, 'Newspapering in the Internet Age,' to Cleveland's SPJ last week at the City Club. She said the PD was still in the black, but she didn't depict a rosy picture for the future of the printed page.

Not surprisingly, Goldberg mentioned that younger readers rely on the Web for news. That's not news. Younger readers have never turned to newspapers for news. But the problem today is really with advertising. Everyone blames newspapers' problems on advertising's shift to the Web. And this is where I'm lost. Because nobody, and I mean absolutely nobody, whether they are 18 to 35, 36 to 70, older, younger - nobody ever admits to reading advertising on Web sites.

I spend time on-line, but I don't consider myself a heavy Internet user. And I generally don't read ads on Web sites. But even friends who pay their bills, plan their vacations and buy their clothes via the Internet say they don't read ads. They use Web sites, they use links, they get RSS feeds, they're on-line hours at a time. But all profess to jump over those pesky ads. Marketers talk about hits, the number of people who visit a Web site where ads appear. But 'hits' won't pay the bills. 'Hits' are not reading.

So I think we need some evidence that people don't really read Web advertising.

Which should send advertisers back to print.

Which should save newspapers."

Did you catch that? When advertisers realize that people don't "read" ads online, they're going to come back to newspapers.

Perhaps some statistics on the growth of online advertising might shed a little more depth and perspective on this (just look at Google). When the newspaper industry and journalists blame the online channel for their woes, do they really think that this is going to sway the mass population and how they consume news? Magazine advertising cut into newspapers. Radio advertising cut into newspapers. Then television advertising, and now the online channels. Newspapers have had the advantage all along to innovate, lead and integrate. They chose not to develop their websites early on. They chose not to act immediately when Craigslist started to grow. They continue to send out messaging like the message above.

Do you think that newspapers are feeling this pain because of the digital channel, or is it because of their content and an ever-shrinking public interest in newspapers? 

(hat tip: Jay Rosen - PressThink via Twitter).

By Mitch Joel