Thursday, 19 November 2015

WORLD-MEDIA: Is Journalism in crisis?

Journalists aren’t lying to anyone. But our industry needs to stop deceiving itself – or it’ll go under.
We don’t lie – at least we don’t lie more or less than anyone else. By saying this, journalists can go about their daily business. Or can we? No, because we are lying not to others but to ourselves.

Our industry has been in dire straits for over a decade. Every media outlet faces the same challenge: How can journalism be financially profitable in the future? Print editions are in sharp decline, the old business model is barely working, and a new one is not yet in sight. This affects, in particular, though not only, our colleagues who devote themselves to the news business. 
We are not finding a solution to the future of our industry because we are not questioning the long-term denial that has existed in print media. Our work has always had a fundamental problem: A model that depends on printing tons of paper that mostly goes directly from the kiosk shelf to the wastepaper bin is neither economically nor environmentally sustainable. It only works when papers are sold in large numbers – but the fewer that are sold, the higher the retail cost of each paper. Additionally, new print titles have to invest an enormous amount in distributing the paper so that it can be purchased at all.
The essential profits did not come from selling papers at kiosks, but through advertising. The truly relevant customers were therefore never the readers. That doesn’t mean, however, that advertising clients could just buy their way into the news or that it should be like that. It simply means that content can often only earn money in a secondary sense and not directly. This is something that we did not want to admit. The necessary, strict separation of journalism and sales was not put in place to protect journalists from getting into conflicts of interest. We were shielded from finding out that it’s not actually about us at all. The online era has slammed the cold hard truth in our faces: Models that rely on the willingness of readers to pay have so far had no resounding success.
During the past few years, we journalists have engaged ourselves in complete navel-gazing. Everywhere you go, you hear from colleagues that everything is swell. Yet behind the curtain, gossip and chit-chat about who’s profitable and who’s on the brink of bankruptcy is in full swing. If this or that cost were added, you would run into the red. If the full investment and development costs were added on, then all digital offerings in the country would resemble a real media cemetery.
We believe that even if we are no longer earning money, we are at least relevant. But let me give you an example: If five million Germans watch the weekly broadcast by the German TV host Günter Jauch, then out of the 68 million Germans over the age of 18, 63 million do not watch this talk show. Considering these figures, what is supporting the media’s claim as the fourth power in the state? The figures are much lower for print journalism. Fewer than 900,000 people buy or have a subscription to Germany’s three major daily newspapers –Frankfurter Allgemeine ZeitungSüddeutsche Zeitung, and Die Welt.
We are not lying; we are working to the best of our knowledge and belief. What most media that need to earn money to survive cannot do, however, is produce content for ordinary people. We tell the advertisers that our readership consists of well-to-do people. The _FAZ_’s main selling point to advertisers is that the paper is read by more people in Germany with salaries over €150,000 than any other. According to the Federal Statistics Office, only three percent of people working in Germany have a net salary of over €4,500 a month.
If we were to once boldly say that we, the quality media, all have the same target group (the three million people in Germany who read a national daily or weekly newspaper or political magazine per week), then it would be immediately clear why we are in crisis: There are too few buyers for our products. We are no longer competing for people’s money, but for their time. The content is now in focus, and it is almost identical to that of the established news websites. It’s obvious that nobody’s willing to pay extra for this.
Our industry will only survive by investing money in content. Lots of money. It should also be ensured that there are future journalists who are qualified for their jobs and ready, in serious cases, to defend democracy with their computers, cameras, and good ideas. This return on investment does not yet exist in any business plan.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
World Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit:-Moss Images -Political Analyst Guylain Gustave Moke-