Can journalism still be profitable in the internet age?

9 Feb

Technological advances have forced the music industry and the media to adapt. The internet has made things more accessible, and therefore CDs and newspapers have been largely replaced by online alternatives – especially by young consumers.

And while pay-to-download services like the iTunes Store (which has sold over 10 billion song downloads in eight years) largely compensate for the decrease in album sales, online media has failed to make up for income lost from newspapers.

A large portion of newspapers’ funding comes from advertising. However, online classifieds, such as Craigslist and Kijiji, are more popular and cheaper – often even free – to use than their print counterparts.

Cost of a week-long ad in the Toronto Star

In addition to the loss of income from personal ads, newspapers and online media have been unable to obtain the same levels of revenue from corporate advertisements that newspapers once had.

Val Maloney, editor of Masthead, says the industry still doesn’t know how to address this issue.

“There aren’t any hard answers yet,” she says. “A lot of publications are talking about adopting the advertising strategies used by Facebook, but so far no one has been able to do it.”

Because there is so much free content on the web – even from newspapers that charge for its print form – many wonder how online journalism can compensate for money lost from subscriptions.

In a March 2009 blog, Clay Shirky, a writer and internet authority at NYU, said  nothing can be done to repair what he calls a broken model.

Maloney isn’t so sure.

“You have to make it easy for them to use [a micropayment system], making it possible to link it to your PayPal account or a service like that,” says Maloney. “If you have the right audience, and make it easy for them to pay for content, eventually that’s a model that could have success.”

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