The Job Outlook For Online Journalists (With Math!)

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flickr: .A.A.

How do you all feel about this piece in MarketWatch?

Brett Arends, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, and former McKinsey consultant (yes, that McKinsey) argues that it’s near impossible for journalists to subsist in a model where the news is given away for free.

If news Web sites give away their content, they must earn their revenues through advertising. A mainstream, general-interest news site typically earns around 2 cents in advertising revenue per page view. …For reporters, the conclusions are grim. They will have to live on the page views their stories generate, and the most they can earn is around 2 cents per story viewed. After factoring in the overhead for running a professional news organization — editors, managers, offices, technology, benefits, support and the like — they’ll probably be lucky to earn 1.5 cents.

Someone hoping to earn, say, $40,000 a year as a professional journalist is probably going to need to generate around 2.7 million page views a year to do so. Assuming he or she works five days a week, 50 weeks a year, that’s nearly 11,000 page views a day.

Which, we don’t need to tell you, is a ton of page views. The New York Times gets 145 million views per month, but that, Arends says, is 3,700 page views a day per reporter.

The math works out, we can’t deny it. But we know lots of people who are earning that kind of money writing for free-only publications. And their companies aren’t necessarily going under.

The question is whether free news can be subsidized by something else. Maybe that’s premium content (Crosswords?) or company-branded events or by the news company buying into a different industry or something.

We’re just saying. Don’t let the math discourage you. On its face it looks awful. But there are ways.