April 20, 2012
Creating for the ‘Mass Intelligence’
Relevance and differentiation is key in the sustaining journalism, but surprise — there’s a catch, said Jim Moroney, publisher and CEO of The Dallas Morning News.
The Dallas Morning News recently implemented a paywall and Moroney said though the business side is changing, the goal of journalism remains the same: to write for an informed public that can make wise decisions to govern itself.
“There is not a formula for a sustainable model, I think there are many formulas,” Moroney said.
So what’s different?
Moroney said advertising revenue for printed publications dropped from $42.4 billion in 2007 to $20.6 billion in 2011.
He said the audience is no longer simply a mass audience.
“We are publishing for a mass intelligence audience, that’s not the same as elite,” Moroney said.
Moroney said the mass intelligence audience is a group of people who want to read smart articles, but want to “snack a little.”
“They are distinguished from the elite who would never be caught watching ‘Saturday Night Live’ or carrying Sports Illustrated,” Moroney said.
Moroney said the core of journalism still comes back to the writing and that is what makes content king. He said the value of content is created through relevance and differentiation of news.
Breaking news is a hot commodity, but there’s increasing difficulty in attaining it, Moroney said.
“Consumers expect you to have it, yet you can’t win it,” Moroney said. “We cannot be all things to all people.”
He said the key is to make the news pertinent to the audience and not just rely on presenting the facts.
How is this really accomplished?
Fill newsrooms with beat reporters, columnists and subject matter experts.
There are many financial challenges that Moroney thinks will not change:
– Print revenue will no longer support high-end journalism
– For local media, advertising revenue from digital publishing will not pay for the cost of creating relevant and differentiated content
Moroney said tablets offer “lean back” reading as journalism was in the print age, before consumption from computers made it a “lean forward” process.
About 92 percent of traffic is still through the Web, Moroney said, but The Dallas Morning News is focusing on tablet content. He hit home the fact that news must be cultivated for specific audiences.
“You can’t charge for commodity content,” Moroney said.
But you can charge if you make the demand for it through differentiation.
News organizations must keep the scale of the newsroom and develop sources of revenue other than advertising.
“It’s our scale that is our competitive advantage,” Moroney said.
Keep an eye out for The Dallas Morning News tablet product that is in development — Moroney said he is excited about it.