Breaking the News

Why news organisations must break to survive.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer


Digital trans­form­a­tion is break­ing the news.

In this art­icle, I’ll show you why online journ­al­ism must first break to sur­vive in the online media landscape.

As a digit­al strategist, I’ve mon­itored media trends and digit­al trans­form­a­tion for organ­isa­tions for over a decade.

Today, news organ­isa­tions have a choice to make.

Here goes:

A New Model for Online Journalism

In the past, read­ers, listen­ers, and view­ers found the news in either news­pa­pers or tele­vised broadcasts.

However, the news media land­scape of tomor­row will have little to do with news­pa­pers or broad­cast net­works. Our tra­di­tion­al news organ­isa­tions are slowly becom­ing dusty rel­ics of our non-digit­al past.

Change is unavoid­able. But one can­not just take these two types of organ­isa­tions, add digit­al dis­tri­bu­tion chan­nels, and expect them to work. 

We know that news sites and stream­ing ser­vices work, but unfor­tu­nately for many tra­di­tion­al news cor­por­a­tions, these two media plat­forms don’t work in tan­dem; this is why tra­di­tion­al news­pa­pers and broad­cast net­works must first break.

Starting Point: Newspapers

Most news sites aren’t “news sites;” they’re news­pa­pers pub­lished on web­sites.

Producing mul­ti­me­dia news for a digit­al con­text takes years — espe­cially if the trans­ition to digit­al rev­en­ue streams is slow and laden with tri­al and error. 

Also, a news site can­not be suc­cess­ful on its own; it must coex­ist in sym­bi­os­is with search engines and social media platforms. 

Quality is always a factor in report­ing the news, but the trans­ition­ing news­pa­per must build speed and volume.

Read also: Digital-First is the Way

Starting Point: Broadcast Networks

Broadcast net­works gen­er­ally have two sep­ar­ate value pro­pos­i­tions: On the one hand, they pro­duce high-qual­ity news shows, and on the oth­er, they provide epis­od­ic entertainment. 

Daily news con­tent won’t sur­vive if the broad­cast net­work migrates into a stream­ing network. 

Conversely, their epis­od­ic enter­tain­ment won’t sur­vive if they move into the news site model. 

Since both mod­els require a lot of effort, split­ting the broad­cast net­work into two sep­ar­ate entit­ies might dilute the resources needed for the transformation.

Read also: How To Pitch a PR Story To a Busy Broadcast Newsroom

Possible Destination: News Sites

Some news­pa­pers will trans­ition into news sites. 

First, the news­pa­per must build a user-friendly site with a best-in-class con­ver­sion design. 

Second, the news­pa­per must be able to pro­duce video news stor­ies and qual­ity news shows. 

Also, they must trans­ition their ad-based print mod­el into a loy­alty-based online sub­scrip­tion ser­vice — without lock­ing away the actu­al news behind paywalls.

Read also: The Future of Online News: How To Convert Premium Users

Possible Destination: Streaming Services

Streaming net­works have the most straight­for­ward suc­cess strategy in the new land­scape; they provide pay­ing sub­scribers with the highest qual­ity epis­od­ic entertainment. 

To stand out and accel­er­ate growth, pro­duce ori­gin­al con­tent to attract and main­tain audi­ences.

The main chal­lenge is a costly game with fierce com­pet­it­ors like Netflix, HBO, and Amazon Prime. Like Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, some news shows can sur­vive as a stream­ing format, but these are likely to be few and far apart.

Read also: House of Cards is Changing the Streaming Game

Breaking the News

Tomorrow’s news must evolve into formats com­pli­ant with digit­al-first media logic regard­less of the chosen route.

If com­pli­ance means that most news organ­isa­tions must break, they will be wise to break on their terms.

Read also: How I Want My Online News

Signature - Jerry Silfwer - Doctor Spin

Thanks for read­ing. Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing art­icles with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tions and mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als. You might also con­sider my PR ser­vices or speak­ing engage­ments.

PR Resource: Journalism vs Public Relations

Spinning Top on Table
To spin or not to spin. (Photo: Jerry Silfwer)
Spin Academy | Online PR Course

Public Relations vs Journalism

PR pro­fes­sion­als and journ­al­ists share many prac­tic­al skill sets. Still, pub­lic rela­tions and journ­al­ism are fun­da­ment­ally different:

Public Relations is the effort to sub­ject­ively advoc­ate agen­das on spe­cial interests’ behalf.

A fun­da­ment­al cri­tique against pub­lic rela­tions is that advocacy is an afflu­ent priv­ilege that manip­u­lates the truth.

Journalism is the effort to object­ively report the news on the pub­lic interest’s behalf.

A fun­da­ment­al cri­tique against journ­al­ism is that objectiv­ity is unreal­ist­ic and the pub­lic interest heterogeneous.

But even if both pub­lic rela­tions and journ­al­ism fail to live up to their ideal states at all times, both prac­tices play vital roles in uphold­ing a bal­anced and stable democracy.

Learn more: Public Relations vs Journalism

Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Cover Photo

The cover photo isn't related to public relations; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that there is more to life than strategic communication.

The cover photo has



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