Michael Skoler, over at Nieman Reports, has such an amazingly good essay on how the traditional news business lost its audience
, I'm having trouble deciding which parts to quote. The whole thing is great, and is a must read. The basic thesis, though, is one you'll hear a lot around these parts. As the newspaper folks lash out at everyone, the real problem has been their own inability to adapt and change. They were built on a model where they were the sole place for a community to gather, but that community now has other options, and the news media has not kept up. Here's one snippet:
The truth is the Internet didn't steal the audience. We lost it. Today fewer people are systematically reading our papers and tuning into our news programs for a simple reason--many people don't feel we serve them anymore. We are, literally, out of touch.
Today, people expect to share information, not be fed it. They expect to be listened to when they have knowledge and raise questions. They want news that connects with their lives and interests. They want control over their information. And they want connection--they give their trust to those they engage with--people who talk with them, listen and maintain a relationship.
Trust is key. Many younger people don't look for news anymore because it comes to them. They simply assume their network of friends--those they trust--will tell them when something interesting or important happens and send them whatever their friends deem to be trustworthy sources, from articles, blogs, podcasts, Twitter feeds, or videos.
Mainstream media are low on the trust scale for many and have been slow to reach out in a genuine way to engage people. Many news organizations think interaction is giving people buttons to push on Web sites or creating a walled space where people can "comment" on the news or post their own "iReports."
People aren't fooled by false interaction if they see that news staff don't read the comments or citizen reports, respond and pursue the best ideas and knowledge of the audience to improve their own reporting. Journalists can't make reporting more relevant to the public until we stop assuming that we know what people want and start listening to the audience.
Again, don't just read this snippet, read the whole thing. It goes on to talk about how other community sites have built trust, and have done it by really involving the community and empowering them. Anyone in the news business who doesn't understand this shouldn't be working in the news business much longer.