The New Distillation of News

by: Yankee Group

By Carl Howe

Journalism.org has just released their new report -- The State of the News Media 2006 -- in which they review the continuing reinvention of the news business. They begin with a provocative statement:

Scan the headlines of 2005 and one question seems inevitable: Will we recall this as the year when journalism in print began to die?

Fortunately, they answer their own rhetorical question:

For two years, we have tracked in this report the major trends in the American news media... What is occurring, we have concluded, is not the end of journalism that some have predicted. But we do see a seismic transformation in what and how people learn about the world around them. Power is moving away from journalists as gatekeepers over what the public knows. Citizens are assuming a more active role as assemblers, editors and even creators of their own news. Audiences are moving from old media such as television or newsprint to new media online. Journalists need to redefine their role and identify which of their core values they want to fight to preserve —something they have only begun to consider.

We wrote about this very topic a couple months ago in our article Deconstructing News in the Attention Economy. And we pointed out the irony of the tyranny of too much news, which is that despite having a plethora of sources to draw upon, consumers don't have any more time to spend listening or watching news. As a result, we're creating our own attention deficit. There is always more content for us to wade through, but we don't have any more time nor any inclination to pay more for information.

That leaves an interesting conclusion: will people pay more for less, but better information? Certainly we saw this phenomenon in the 1990s growth of technology market research for corporate executives from the likes of Forrester, where analysts would distill the state of a complex market down to a 10-15 page report with easy to grasp pictures, and charge thousands of dollars for those distillations. And we've seen similar models rise in the online blog world at places like TechDirt.com.

Can anyone become the Google of online and offline distilled news? No one has yet. There is a huge need there. But it will take someone with will, skills, money, and marketing to make it happen.