Guiding Document

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Guiding Doc • Case study format • Rejected text

I Overview paper

The Internet and the digital media age generally have revolutionized the delivery of information, slashing the costs of creating, reproducing and delivering text, photos, audio and video. Over the past decade, the swift spread of Internet use and broadband penetration, especially in developed countries, means that media business models based on valuing limited access to the content are becoming rapidly less relevant. Just as the music industry was disrupted firt by the ease of copying music from digital media (CDs) with no loss of quality and then by Internet delivery and sharing of digital audio, other media industries are realizing that the basic tenets of their market position are less valid with each passing day.

Although in the long term this disruption will affect all forms of media, in the short term, in the United States, general interest daily newspapers are by far the hardest hit. Their subscription and advertising revenue was based on reaching a large, general audience with a combination of information, news and entertainment that was not available in other forms, are suffering the most. Over time, more and more of the elements of a local daily newspaper became available online, through news aggregators, the websites of national newspaper, and specialized sites with sports news, film reviews and other entertainment news. A core element of local newspaper revenues, the classified ad, moved to the Internet en masse, initially driven by the success of free classified models such as Craigslist and strengthened by companies like that used powerful search and other functions to make web-based classified advertising more effective. And even though newspaper sites generally are among the most popular news sources on the web, national and larger urban papers with the ability to invest in building attractive sites have a significant advantage over local publications. More importantly, the domination of the online advertising market by the search engines, which account for as much as 90% of the market, means that even newspapers that are actively selling online ads say they are getting "10 cents on the dollar."

In parallel to the fast-moving changes in the traditional media, the growth of a number of web-based technologies (chat rooms, forums, blogging platforms, photo- and video-sharing sites, etc.) that allowed even people with few technical skills and no capital investment to "be a publisher," sharing their musings, photos and home videos with the world. The facility of blogs to allow readers to discuss articles, in real time, lead to the development of what was first called the blogosphere, now more accurately the many blogospheres. The success of some blogs, particularly those focused on politics and technology, eventually led to the citizen journalism movement and the belief by some that small, volunteer-based online publications would fill the holes left by the shrinking of the professional media.

The concurrent decline of the US newspaper industry and the rise of the blogospheres and citizen media has given rise to a dangerous myth that retains its power in both traditional and online media circles, despite extensive analysis in both debunking it. The idea that blogs and other forms of amateur online media are responsible for the drop in readership and revenues for traditional print media is clearly false, as all sensible industry analysts have long known. The 2005 Blogging, Journalism and Credibility put forward Jay Rosen's slogan that "Blogging vs. Journalism is Over," but in 2008, this dangerous attitude is still evident.

Media Re:public proposes that the most productive framework for understanding changing media systems and their effect on the news and environment must begin with the following principles:

  • the forms of new media where most of the content is created by people for whom media creation is not their primary occupation that are currently popular (blogs, volunteer citizen news sites, etc.) have not replaced professional news media in any signficant way;
  • new authors and new formats have enriched the news and information and environment, but without significant, organized effort will not develop the capacity to take over all the media functions that are necessary for a democratic public sphere;
  • as existing traditional media struggle to survive and remain relevant, market forces are pushing them in directions that threaten their public service function and the insulation of editorial (journalistic) decisions from commercial considerations;
  • existing traditional media are hampered by capital investments and corporate culture from using their vast resources to explore convergent and networked forms of media adequately; and
  • it is likely that there will be significant consolidation in the commercial US media.

The traditional media are struggling to save their businesses. Professional journalists are desperate to save their jobs. Big entertainment and technology companies are building online empires bent on collecting mass audiences, regardless of the content. Political and technology bloggers are talking to each other and their book agents about their growing impact. Citizen journalists are wondering just how long this will continue to be fun.

The interest of the public is not at the top of anyone's agenda


from a different framework

The growing popularity of these

explosion of self-expression

changed not only the distribution

the impact on different types of media is quite different. Because it requires the least bandwidth and the technology to distribute it is most available and best developed, text-based media are hardest hit. General interest daily newspapers, whose

as it becomes as easy to share a favorite TV program with friends in broadcast quality as to send them a newspaper article by email. I

The threats to advertising-based TV and radio business modelas are real, but for technical reasons, broadcast audiences are migrating to Internet-based delivery far more slowly than audiences for text-based information. Meanwhile, broadcast television has been adapting to major changes in its competitive environment for decades: the spread of multi-channel cable systems, the appearance of 24-hour cable news channels,and the advent of digital video recorders were each very disruptive but ultimately survivable. Meanwhile, the commercial TV industry has show signs of taking the changes brought by the Internet more seriously earlier than publishers: "convergence" was the theme of broadcasters' conventions as early as 2002. The radio advertising market is dropping more slowly than either TV or print and the more current threat to radio is likely satellite radio.

OLDER STILL The networked media environment in the U.S. and other highly developed countries is still very young and there are still many unanswered questions about how it functions now and what that implies for the future. Media Re:public research suggests there are nonetheless, significant, observable changes in the overall news and information environment driven by the emergence of new media that point to real challenges to the role of media in supporting a democractic society and suggest a range of possible interventions. We propose that goals can be developed based on defining desirable functions and qualities of a media environment that serves democracy, rather than preserving or re-creating the technical or editorial system of any specific time or place. The methods for attaining these goals should be based on realistic possibilities for viability but not limited to existing business models.

In looking at the current and looming structural changes in individual media entities, the interplay among various types of media and the impact of these on the information environment, Media Re:public will identify critical junctures where the current trajectory of efforts by both commercial investment money and philanthropy are not meeting the needs for information or are missing opportunities to greatly enrich the environment.

The project considers the whole of the news and information environment, including new and traditional forms of news media as well as temporary or partial spaces where current events and social issues are reported or discussed within social or entertainment-focused media (e.g., bridge collapse photos on FaceBook and Flickr, political discussions on American Idol forums, etc.). In examining media forms, a functional typology is proposed to distinguish different structures that may exist in either traditional or new media. On top of this framework, the implications of the motivations and size of different media entities are also considered. The U.S. media system will be examined in light of the medium systems in other markets around the world with the aim of highlighting opportunities for creative solutions.

Amid the attention to new formats, new audiences and new authors, far less work has been devoted to new forms of content creation, especially content creation that uses the possibilities of the network. The paper will examine hypotheses for this gap, highlight some of the most promising work being done and put forward suggestions for encouraging innovation.

There is increasing evidence that developments in both traditional and new media are pushing both in the direction of ignoring some topics and some publics. There is still much research to be done to document these tendencies quantitatively and explore potential remedies. Each of the areas of inquiry described is deserving of further study, and the paper will present suggestions for fruitful areas of research to deepen the understanding of the processes underway. Cross-discipinary, internationally collaborative investigations are most needed.

Thematic Papers

Complementing the overview paper, a series of thematic papers will examine key themes in more detail:

In the age of digital media, the sad place of international news in the U.S. media diet is a demand problem: the world is talking and we are holding our hands over our ears Ethan Zuckerman

The credential horse has left the barn forever: why news literacy is the only way to ensure credibility in the news Dan Gillmor

Are American public media institutions addressing the digital challenge in ways that truly benefit the public? If not, what can we do about it? Sondra Russell, CPB

Gatekeepers, curators, curmudgeons – why the good old-fashioned editor remains critical Tom Stites, CPI

Mass media and the blogosphere – together 4ever? John Kelly, Morningside Analytics

Case Studies

Audience-generated content model

The Forum local, volunteer authors, nonprofit

Backfence (not in business) local, volunteer authors, commercial


Public radio experiment, grant-supported, local, not focused on news

Author-centric model

Baristanet hyperlocal, hobbyist business model

one more Author-centric to come

Publisher model

Ohmynews International, pro-am, unique and possibly non transferable business model

Global Voices Publisher (with elements of agency and audience-generated), nonprofit, successful in everything but commercial revenue and mass media reach on non-crisis stories) Lokman Tsui, Annenberg East, to write

Chi-Town Daily News

Aggregator model

Agency model

Outliers STEP - (non-media nonprofit using online video for activism) Not a traditional case study, nor part of typology, but an example of non-media NGO. We have a 9-minute video produced by KSG class and a paper. Needs filling out, clean-up and tie into whatever our conclusion is about non-profits and new media.

see also: Manifesto