A new Pew study found that while the traditional news industry continues to shrink, more niche media outlets are beginning to emerge. What does this mean for association publishers?
I think an association will lose if they try to compete with national media for broad stories, but if we focus on the issues and events that directly affect our audience … then we can compete extremely well.
Newspapers are dying, we know. But a new “State of the News Media” report by the Pew Research Center found that overall the news industry is shrinking and individuals and organizations with information to share have growing opportunities to reach the public.
Consider the stats reported by Pew: Full-time staff in newspaper newsrooms is at its lowest level since 1978. Time magazine cut 5 percent of its staff in early 2013. The African-American newspaper The Chicago Defender is now operating with a staff of four. And CNN cut almost half of its story packages between 2007 and 2012.
Reductions like these are coming at a time when Americans are deserting news sources they used to trust. In a correlated public opinion poll of more than 2,000 U.S. adults, almost a third of respondents reported giving up on a news outlet because it no longer provided the news they were used to receiving.
Meanwhile, people with information to share are using technology and social media to reach the public directly, instead of going through media outlets.
“While traditional newsrooms have shrunk,” the Pew report states, “there are other new players producing content that could advance citizens’ knowledge about public issues. They are covering subject areas that would have once been covered more regularly and deeply by beat reporters at traditional news outlets—areas such as health, science, and education.”
These players include Kaiser Health News and Insidescience.org, which is supported by the American Institute of Physics, a consortium of member societies.
Does this growing trend in niche media also create an opportunity for association publishers who deliver specialized content to their members?
“I don’t think it’s a new opportunity,” said Gary Rubin, senior vice president of e-media and publishing at the Society of Human Resource Management and president of Association Media and Publishing. “I think it’s a continuing opportunity. Niche media has always been an excellent source of unique information for our readers.”
The trouble that traditional news media is now facing is directly related to the perishable nature of their content, Rubin added. What’s news today is no longer news next week, in most cases.
Many associations, on the other hand, are creating content without such short expiration dates.
“I think an association will lose if they try to compete with national media for broad stories,” Rubin said. “But if we focus on the issues and events that directly affect our audience and cover it specifically through that lens—the lens of what’s important to our members for professional purposes—then we can compete extremely well.”