For nearly 15 years, news organizations have had to adapt to the growing influence of the internet, with disastrous results. Many have withered away as a result of our news becoming more accessible, while some have been able to stay afloat, albeit by the skin of their teeth.
Other than connecting to readers at a faster rate, social media hasn’t really helped many news outlets, due to their ad revenue going directly to the likes of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Not only do news outlets have to scramble with ways to make themselves money, they now have to compete with fake news.
With media trust waning these past couple of years, the general public has visited sites and outlets that largely push fake or falsified news, due to the ease of social media’s many viral algorithms. These so-called “news sites,” like InfoWars and Breitbart, experienced more traffic flows than any other online news outlets during the 2016 election. As a result, itconfused, divided or terrified the American electorate, with just a dash of “Russian spice” stoking the flames.
Late 2016 and early 2017, in my opinion, is seen as a watershed moment for many media outlets. How can the media gain back the trust of the American electorate in an engaging way that doesn’t result in selling out their audience?
The answer: paid subscription.
Paying for our news isn’t something new for many individuals. Before the advent of the internet, news was mainly bought at a newspaper stand in your local downtown area. News itself wasn’t free, and unless they had a TV in their home, people had to pay for their news in order to find out what was going on in the world. In fact, some of journalism’s most impactful stories were a result of hard-working, well-paid reporters doing their best in a profession that was both flushed with cash and very influential.
Although the time of newspapers may be over now that many people get their news from social media, news outlets have a chance to be just as influential online as they were in the 20th century in print.
Think of it this way. You probably pay close to $10 to $15 a month for Netflix’s streaming service. You expect Netflix to continually produce high quality shows and content like “Stranger Things” and “Orange is the New Black” on a yearly basis. You binge it, you’re entertained, and if you’re watching one of their documentaries, you learn something.
Now, wouldn’t you want your favorite news outlet to provide the same service and quality of care with their stories as Netflix does with their entertainment?
Of course you would. If you’re paying $15 a month, you better hope that the content you’re paying for is totally worth it. The medium of journalism is changing and has left many journalists struggling to both pay the bills and engage with the audience.
Luckily, we’re living in a time where adaptable journalists not only survive, but thrive. Podcasting, data visualization and video blogging are merely some of the ways journalism is able to connect with their audience in such high-quality, modern ways. Vox, Axios, FiveThirtyEight, Vice and The New York Times have all been able to produce incredible content, while mediating the effects of layoffs.
People pay attention when hard hitting issues or stories grace some of those outlets above, and usually readers tend to believe those outlets when they’re producing high quality content that’s worth their dollar.
Americans have always consumed news. A free press is integral for a democracy to function and for a republic to thrive. The American people deserve the best news that they can get their hands on, and they don’t want to be fooled or taken advantage of by the media. Real news should be worth every pretty penny that you earn. If you’re paying for it, it should be easy to spot what is real and what is fake.
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