The boss of Google believes newspapers can make money online – but a survey of American media chiefs paints a continuing gloomy picture.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently told a group of newspaper executives that newspapers will make money once again, but it will be from online advertisements and an altered subscription model.
Speaking to the American Society of News Editors’ annual convention in Washington, Schmidt said newspapers were indispensable, and that high-quality journalism would triumph. He said Google was working on new forms of making money, and while not revealing what they were, he urged newspaper proprietors to look at personalising content and making it readily available through mobile devices.
“The web can ultimately be very good for news,” Schmidt said. “You have more readers than ever, you have more sources than ever. New forms of making money will develop.”
He said Google was working on ways to tailor online advertising to what the reader was actually looking at. Technology, he said, would be more reactive – not only steering the reader towards related stories, but also towards differing views.
However, a new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism shows news executives remain pessimistic about the future.
The survey of more than 350 print and broadcasting news executives, conducted in December 2009 and January 2010, found that fewer than half of all those surveyed are confident their operations will survive another 10 years without significant new sources of revenue. Nearly a third believe their operations are at risk in just five years or less.
Many of the new revenue options being debated today receive only limited or divided support from news executives. When it comes to the often-discussed option of pay walls for online content, for instance, only 10% say they are working on them, though that could change. Another 32% are considering them and just 11% have written off the idea. More than a third (35%) have not even considered them at all. Still, as they look ahead, only 15% of news executives believe pay walls will be a significant source of revenue in three years.
Display and banner online advertising, for all that it has failed to grow, is still the No. 1 area of effort and the one that news executives pin their greatest hopes on. But second is revenue from products outside of news.
Sixty percent of those questioned think the internet is changing the fundamental values of journalism. Their biggest concern is loosening standards of accuracy and verification, much of it tied to the immediacy of the Web. “I worry that journalistic standards are dropping, in that blogging and celebrity gossip and Tweets are being confused with reporting and editing that passes a rigorous standard,” wrote one broadcast executive.