Columbia J-School Report: Journalists Don’t Understand Advertising

Social media is good, subscription models are not

According to a 146-page report released Tuesday by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism—titled “The Story So Far: What We Know About the Business of Digital Journalism”—journalists need to reconsider their relationships with advertisers.

“Here’s the problem: Journalists just don’t understand their business,” Randall Rothenberg, the head of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, says in the report. The study builds on that idea, saying that the traditional news industry has been too slow to adapt to new digital technology.

“We’re not suggesting that journalists get marching orders from advertisers,” Bill Grueskin, the academic dean for the journalism school and a co-author of the report, told The New York Times. “We are suggesting that journalists get a much better understanding of why so many advertising dollars have left the traditional news media business.”

The report makes several suggestions for journalists, encouraging them to take advantage of new media ads, social networking, and search engine optimization. News outlets and marketers, it says, need to “forge new models that integrate digital ads and social media outreach.” But the report cautions against relying on the subscription model, saying that news sites “should have very limited expectations for its success—at least on the Web.”

What it all comes down to, according to the Columbia Journalism Review’s Felix Salmon, is “the idea that although the business and the journalism are always going to be linked, they don’t necessarily need to be linked through the slightly kludgy old media mechanism of simple adjacency.”

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