Journalism study prompts church and state rethink

A new Columbia Graduate School of Journalism study seeks a re-examination of the media-advertiser union and metrics that look beyond page views and traffic.

In the news
A new Columbia Graduate School of Journalism study, "The Story So Far: What We Know About the Business of Digital Journalism," seeks a re-examination of the media-advertiser union and metrics that look beyond page views and traffic.

Why does it matter?
Thanks to the advent of online/digital platforms, advertisers have a lot more ways to reach consumers and many of them bypass the traditional tool of advertising next to editorial.

"We're not advocating newspapers turn over editorial to advertising, but to get a much better understanding of how they're reaching consumers and then adapting their content in ways that can make digital advertising more effective," says study co-author Bill Grueskin, academic dean of the school. "Right now, most online advertising is not very effective."

Successful examples from the study include The Dallas Morning News website's High School Game Time section, which garners six times more page views than the site's news section. Suburban New Jersey's Baristanet uses freelance and free articles to provide content on a budget that enables it to profit on $20,000 in monthly advertising.

Lisa Kovitz, EVP/media strategist at Edelman, notes PR firms now better understand advertisers' evolving role in the business side of news and can work with clients' media buying/ad divisions to optimize their journalist outreach.

"We want that separation of church and state," she adds. "But now we have a greater opportunity to be more than just the source of an interview or video."

Key facts
1. An AOL-commissioned study found that about 40% of people pay for online content (including music and video) and only about 4% pay for online news.
2. Forrester Research notes "earned media" now means word-of-mouth buzz created through social media.
3. USA Today is considering paying bonuses to reporters based on page views.

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