Posted on August 24, 2013 in Archive

Why a declining industry isn’t bad news for journalists

24Aug

Digital innovation has the potential to develop or destroy jobs in any given industry. So in this article we take a look at how journalists are facing a declining industry in this digital age.

One example of the negative impact of digital technologies for journalism is the recent sale of the Washington Post.

By deciding to sell the newspaper, the Graham family is essentially admitting that they can’t see a way of getting through the digital revolution.

What will happen at the Post under new owner, Jeff Bezos, is fairly predictable and has happened at news publications worldwide – staff will be cut.

Having said that, journalism isn’t entirely lost; while some jobs are being cut, others are being created.

Michael Mendel of Progressive Policy Institute recently conducted a study that examined unpublished data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in America, and job advertisements from The Conference Board.

Some of the key findings of the report can be summarised as follows:

  • Employment at newspapers declined by about 5% over the last year
  • The number of help-wanted ads for news analysts, reporters, and correspondents is up 15% on last year
  • More people are telling the BLS that they’re working as a news analyst, reporter, or correspondent than a year ago
  • Roughly half the ads for these positions contain the words digital, internet, online, or mobile

The following graph represents employment in the newspaper industry against job ads for news analysts, reporters, and correspondents from June 2007 to June 2013.

Journalists & Print journalism industry graph

Mendel’s graph based on data from BLS and The Conference Board

As can be seen, at the beginning of 2010, a noticeable digression appeared: employment in traditional media outlets decreased, while demand for journalists increased significantly.

According to supporting data from The Conference Board, the number of job ads between 2010 and today has more than doubled.

As digital technologies continue to redefine journalistic practices, and traditional sources are undermined by the rise of online news sites, more and more examples of this type of divergence will appear.

There’s no denying that technological innovation in journalism is creating new jobs, but where exactly are these journalists being employed?

Sure, there are non-traditional newspaper and magazine publications, such as independent websites (think Crikey or The conversation), but they still don’t account for all of the growth in job vacancies.

The Australian suggests that the hundreds of journalists who have lost their jobs in the past year may have new career opportunities opening up in the corporate sector.

And not as public relations executives as most would expect, but as brand journalists, a term that is snowballing as companies catch on to the idea of marketing themselves directly to their customers.

Brand journalism combines the doctrines of journalism, such as independence, objectivity, clarity and good writing, with marketing.

Companies hire journalists to create good content that is related to their brand and will be interesting to their clients.

(Just how objective and independent that content is, is a matter for another post.)

This content is delivered through a combination of direct and social media channels, and in the process, bypasses mainstream media.

One popular example of ‘successful’ brand journalism is Randy’s Journal, from Boeing.

Randy Tinseth is the vice president of marketing for Boeing Commercial in Seattle, and his blog, which is focused on aviation photography, brings a personal element to a very corporate image.

People seem to like it because it doesn’t saturate readers with information directly concerning the brand; rather it more subtly talks about the aviation industry in general, therefore attracting anyone who is interested in planes, aviation, or travel.

A second example is Cisco, a global company that specialises in communication and networking.

Cisco’s online news site pushes out a lot of content relating to the overall industry, for example, technology, cloud innovation, and connectivity.

Again, they don’t spam people with direct advertisements or company plugs.

Instead, they employ an understated form of marketing that involves well-written, accurate, interesting, and most importantly, timely, articles that readers find relevant.

The companies that best understand the skills that journalists can bring to the table, and the potential of brand journalism, are best set to attract and sustain audiences that are fed up with traditional advertising.

These companies hire journalists to discuss newsworthy subjects without directly promoting their company, and they see positive results: audiences are more engaged and loyal.

For this reason, brand journalism is a trend that is on the rise and is shaking up the media industry, one articulate blog at a time!