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Faith in the media, they say, is at an all-time low. But perhaps there’s light not only at the end but throughout this tunnel, as viewers and readers turn back to veteran media organizations to get reliable information.
Some are even thanking President Trump for this turn of events.
If you haven’t heard of it before, it’s called “the Trump Bump,” the concept that people are increasingly ponying up to access news content, both local and national, in response to Trump’s barrage of statements and tweets that tend to challenge the truth on a daily basis.
But let’s not get political here.
Whether it’s Trump that’s instigating the lift in subscribers to news organizations or some other politician, this is good news for media outlets that employ highly credible professionals who spend their life and believe it’s their mission to ferret out the truth. Journalists don’t always get it right, but as a former journalist, I can attest that most work tirelessly to do so.
The New York Times reported a 27% year over year growth in digital subscribers from 2017 to 2018, with an 18% lift to its digital subscription revenue. Not too shabby.
But The New York Times is a whale. What about the smaller guys, our local papers and outlets?
Things are slightly rosier for some. And let’s be real: There might not be a bud on this flower, but the plant is peeking above the dirt. McClatchy, which operates 29 daily newspapers, is in its third year of growth in digital audience revenue, up 47.6%.
All that being said, the battle to establish a steady stream of revenue that sustains local media organizations is still very much afoot. While newspapers and their digital equivalents were the first to see revenue fall off the edge and now some early indications imply, are on the digital mend. Now broadcasters are facing some of the similar headwinds newspapers did 10 years ago.
Both broadcaster and publishers need to keep in mind that the Trump Bump is just that: a bump. It will not lead to ongoing growth in revenue. But still, demand for news and information exists. And this is where opportunity blooms. Here’s what I think all news media needs to do.
Dive deep in reporting
Media organizations need to focus on reporting. Stop being a megaphone; be a microscope. Give journalists the presence of mind and time to ask questions.
From what I’ve seen in the industry, media organizations are dedicating a lot of manpower and time toward getting the right combination of resources in order to tell community stories. Much of these initiatives are in pilot mode, but they are progressing well.
Find the right balance
Focus on a balance of safe and important news content. Yes, auto manufacturers want to attach their brand to happy and good content, but we all know there’s real news out there, and that needs resources poured on it, too. The business model needs to support the hard-hitting stuff.
Seek out opportunities for innovation
Finally, leverage innovative services and centralize your content news operations where you can. The old work flow meant that a crew covered every story, then the world moved to multimedia media journalism and one-man bands. Now, there are tools that help media professionals be more productive without making them be everything in the field.
That’s what the media can do to create better content, but we all have an individual responsibility as well. Be willing to shell out, in some form, for quality news. Information is no different than anything else: You get what you pay for. Perhaps, then, the news desert will bear a rose.