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Executive Report - By Thomas Baekdal - August 2021

The future of journalism: How three different types of stories require a massively different focus

It's really fascinating to see just how much has changed over the past few years. When I became a media analyst professionally back in 2010, we lived in a very simple media world. It was simple because, back then, all we really talked about was the shift from print to digital.

This was a time when people like Ken Aulette wrote: "Googled: The end of the world as we know it", and Jeff Jarvis wrote: "What would Google Do?" And I too spent a lot of time back then writing about this topic.

But over the past 10 years, this focus is no longer as important. Sure, there are many people who still complain about Google, but the fundamental fact is that, if you want to be successful today, spending all your time trying to get Google to pay for links or somehow believing that advertisers would prefer advertising next to news stories is really not going to help you.

We have also solved the problem with print to digital, some obviously better than others. There are some newspapers who are still struggling a lot, there are others that have closed, which is very sad. But as an industry overall, we have now become successfully digital (below is a graph from the New York Times as an extreme example).

So today, we are looking at a media world where we no longer have the same problems as in 2010. We have moved on, we have made it work, we have become profitable again, we have created new products, new formats, new services, and much more. And, as a media analyst, seeing this makes me so happy.

However, one thing we haven't really fixed is journalism. When we look at what most traditional newspapers and magazines do today, there is almost no difference in the journalistic focus. The articles have the same approach, the same style, they are packaged the same way, and the value of each article is still incredibly low.

But wait a minute, if we have become profitable and our industry is growing, doesn't that mean that the journalism is fine? No, it doesn't.

There are specifically five problems that we face at the moment.

Only a tiny group of people pay for news

The first problem is with the percentage of people who pay for news. While this number is growing (very slowly), we are still looking at an average between 5% to 20% (you can read the details in the latest report from Reuters Institute). This means that more than 80% of the public is not paying for news, and currently don't feel any need to.

This means that our journalism, as a product, is still very far from being something the general public feel is worth paying for. In fact, news today is basically sold as a niche that a small subset of the public pay for.

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What is Baekdal?

Baekdal is a magazine for media professionals, focusing on media analysis, trends, patterns, strategy, journalistic focus, and newsroom optimization. Since 2010, it has helped publishers in more than 40 countries, including big and small publishers like Condé Nast, Bonnier, Schibsted, NRC, and others, as well as companies like Google and Microsoft.

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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


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