Newsonomics: Twelve New Trends That Will Shape the News You Get

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The New News

Reports of the death of the news media are highly premature, though you wouldn’t know it from the media’s own headlines. Ken Doctor goes far beyond those headlines, taking an authoritative look at the fast-emerging future.

The Twelve Laws of Newsonomics reveal the kinds of news that readers will get and that journalists (and citizens) will produce as we enter the first truly digital news decade.

A new Digital Dozen, global powerhouses from The New York Times, News Corp, and CNN to NBC, the BBC, and NPR will dominate news across the globe, Locally, a colorful assortment of emerging news players, from Boston to San Diego, are rewriting the rules of city reporting,

Newsonomics provides a new sense of the news we’ll get on paper, on screen, on the phone, by blog, by podcast, and via Facebook and Twitter. It also offers a new way to understand the why and how of the changes, and where the Googles, Yahoos and Microsofts fit in. Newsonomics pays special attention to media and journalism students in a chapter on the back-to-the-future skills they’ll need, while marketing professionals get their own view of what the changes mean to them.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Ken Doctor is one of the smartest people I know in the news business. Where so many people have their heads in the clouds or under the table, he faced reality a long time ago. He gets the economics, the technology, and the personalities of the new news world. He knows the winners from the losers. His book is quite simply the best primer so far to the future of the news".

—Michael Wolff, author of The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch

"The business model to fund journalism is broken. Ken Doctor picks up the pieces and offers hope to those smart and brave enough to embrace change."

—Gordon Crovitz, former Publisher, Wall Street Journal, co-founder Journalism Online

This is a wonderfully informative and conversationally written book that should be a must read for anyone interested in the future of journalism. "Newsonomics" captures the energy, passion, creativity and opportunity of this transformational period for journalism and the media. It’s fun to read and full of relevant facts and context.

—Robert J. Rosenthal, Executive Director, Center for Investigative Reporting

"Ken Doctor is one of the most important and readable analysts in media today. With Newsonomics, he creates some optimism that there is a way to navigate the difficult terrain. Newsonomics is a must-read and will leave you energized."

—Bernie Lunzer, President of The Newspaper Guild-CWA

“Whether you are in the news business or some other industry, Newsonomics, offering sensible ideas for moving forward in any business, is a case study on how quickly your business model can be transformed.”

—Clare Hart, President, Dow Jones Enterprise Media Group

Publishers Weekly
Doctor spent 21 years working in various capacities for the Knight Ridder media empire until the company's sale in 2006, and he offers an overview of the very changes that swept him out the door. But far from expressing bitterness about the barrage of blogs and Web sites that have brought old media giants like his former employer to their knees, Doctor is an enthusiastic, even giddy champion of how advances in digital technology are reshaping news media. He reels off buzzwords and corny catchphrases (“It's all beta, baby”; “I'm not a Chump, I'm a Champion”), but sheds little in the way of insight, analysis, or, frankly, news. His rules for “newsonomics” tend to be disappointingly obvious: “Create multimedia, aggregate, blog, master the technology, and market virally.” Perhaps to compensate for the lack of substance, Doctor has tricked out the book with sidebars, bullet-point lists, and interview transcripts, emulating the eye-catching style so prevalent in the blogosphere. In doing so, he inadvertently draws attention to what some might consider the chief limitation of the digital boom—that for all the technical innovation, there's still no substitute for good writing and solid reporting. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Media analyst and former managing editor of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Doctor offers his take on 12 trends currently shaping the dissemination of news by the mass media. In detail-packed chapters (with one trend per chapter), the author discusses the endlessly available news content, how the "digital dozen" media behemoths are pairing global reach with an increased focus on local news, the importance of niche publishing and advertising, the differences between amateur blogging reporters and professional reporter bloggers, and more. Each chapter also includes sidebars about various aspects of the old and new journalism models and Q&As with an impressive cross section of new media players. Although the story of how content is produced and consumed has been covered before (think Chris Anderson's Free and David Weinberger's Everything Is Miscellaneous), Doctor manages to strike a new tone that's well balanced between nostalgia for the old world and acceptance of (as well as optimism for) the new. VERDICT Doctor's analysis might be a bit detailed for the recreational reader, but it's essential reading for journalism students and those interested in media culture.—Sarah Statz Cords, The Reader's Advisor Online
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312598938
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 2/2/2010
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

KEN DOCTOR spent twenty-one years with Knight Ridder, long the country's second-largest newspaper company until its sale in 2006. He served in key editorial and executive roles and then completed his career there as VP/Editorial, VP/Strategy and VP/Content Services for Knight Ridder Digital in San Jose. He writes the popular Content Bridges blog, serves as news industry analyst for the research and advisory firm Outsell, and appears frequently on television and radio as a media expert.

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Read an Excerpt

Excerpt from Chapter 1. In the Age of Darwinian Content, You Are Your Own Editor

"It’s amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper." —JERRY SEINFELD

"Control your own destiny or someone else will." —JACK WELCH


You used to be able to count your daily news sources on one hand. If you were the average American, you read your daily newspaper, watched the evening news, and subscribed to several magazines. In the car, maybe, you caught some news on the radio.


It’s not for nothing that Walter Cronkite and Chet Huntley and David Brinkley were household words to my parents’ generation. These guys weren’t talking heads. They were editors. Along with their staffs, they picked what they thought we needed to know that evening. And then packed it neatly into thirty minutes. Weekends, well, that was leisure time. News happened Monday to Friday.

Newspaper editors played the same role.


In 1994, I became managing editor of the Saint Paul Pioneer Press, a daily of about 200,000 circulation in the Twin Cities, with more than two hundred people working in the newsroom. Managing editor, as in M.E., as in the second-ranking editor. A key M.E. responsibility: making a final decision on what went on Page One the next morning. At first, it was both exhilarating and anxiety producing. Knowing that the pick I’d ratify would determine what some 400,000 readers saw first thing the next morning gave pause.

I was a gatekeeper.


Today the familiar gatekeepers—top editors at daily papers, those who put together the evening news broadcasts—have lost their audiences and their sway. Those newspaper gatekeepers used to bring their readers the world—national news, international news, business news, sports news, entertainment news, and local news. Now it’s that last area—local—that may be their refuge from the Internet storm.

For decades, more than 1,500 daily newspapers—most of them, chain-owned—created their own national pages, their own world pages, their own business pages, their own national entertainment pages. Sure, corporate offices tried pushing economies of scale, suggesting pages that were centrally produced, at far less cost. Most local editors rebelled, though, and the work most industries would consider redundant stayed in place for a long time.


“We’ll tell our readers what’s important,” local editors bellowed. In fact, for all the editor concentration and cost, readers were getting a bit of New York Times lite, Washington Post lite, and Los Angeles Times lite, plus a smattering of AP and other newswires. Readers—that’s you—are no dummies and figured it out, once technology released the stranglehold of local editors. Why take your local editors’ edited, truncated-for-print versions of The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and hundreds of other complete sources? Why settle for New York Times lite from your local paper?


Why, indeed? And so, many of us have migrated, at least for part of what we need to know, from the daily print paper to Internet news reading. In fact, not just many, but most. As 2008 closed, the well-regarded Pew Research Center told us that the Internet had surpassed newspapers as a national and international news source for the first time. (See “Newsonomics 101: The News Revolution by the Numbers,” page 2.)


The Internet brought that level of change in one quick decade, in less than one generation. Now readers can get the full-bore report of all of those publications and much, much more, if they know where to look (usually Yahoo, Google, and the like), for free.


That’s why we start with Law No. 1: In the Age of Darwinian Content, You Are Your Own Editor. We have now become our own gatekeepers; we no longer see the news world as a gated community.

We live in a news bubble. We don’t so much get the news as the news gets to us, sometimes surrounding us. At work, in our cars, at home—and even in elevators and at gas pumps. It’s now hard not to know what’s going on.


News of actor Heath Ledger’s death, in January 2006, traveled at the speed of the Web, the very definition of viral news. One friend told me he was amazed when his grandmother e-mailed him the news!


Now, we move among formerly separate worlds—print and broadcast, news and features, news and blogs, the deadly serious and the deadly funny—effortlessly.


We can pick from The New York Times or The Dallas Morning News or the Chicago Tribune. We can watch CNN or ABC or listen to NPR’s All Things Considered or Ira Glass’s fine feature journalism on This American Life when we have the time to tune in. Agence France Presse and Reuters bring us coverage from around the world, and the BBC, The Economist, and The Guardian reverse a couple of hundreds of years of history and recolonize America with their reporting. The blogosphere can deliver dozens of viewpoints daily, with the Huffington Post targeting progressives as Red State targets conservatives.


Miss the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, want to catch Rachel Maddow’s show, or need to catch up on the latest antinews with Stewart and Colbert? Do it online when you want to. All that and reams more get tossed together, mixed and matched, endlessly, through each twenty-four hours.


Key to this news revolution is a huge change: We’ve leapt from a point of scarcity—readers could only get to so much news and information, depending on their budget and where they lived—to a point of near universal and largely free access. Similarly, advertisers, who used to have to compete for scarce placements to reach us consumers, can now choose from a nearly infinite “inventory.” That produces this irony: The scarcity-to-plenty transformation that gives consumers great choice has limited news producers’ ability to provide that choice.


How do we get a sense of the news production that we have lost? It’s easiest to see in individual stories that may never have been published. (See “Newsonomics 101: The Impact of 828,000 Stories Not Published,” below.)


We can figure that local communities across the United States have already lost at least 20 percent of their reporting.


Yet what has been lost is, of course, hard to put your finger on.


Excerpted from Newsonomics by Ken Doctor.

Copyright © 2010 by Ken Doctor.

Published in 2010 by St. Martin’s Press.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Table of Contents


1. In the Age of Darwinian Content, You Are Your Own Editor

The old gatekeepers are disappearing. We live in a world of endless choice on paper, podcast,Web, and television. We’ve become our own and one another’s editors.

2. The Digital Dozen Will Dominate

A dozen or so multinational, multiplatform media companies will

dominate global news and information.

3. Local: Remap and Reload

Local news companies get smaller and more local-oriented as they struggle to find survival strategies. Meanwhile, city news start-ups can now compete with the big boys.

4. The Old News World Is Gone. Get Over It

Two revolutions, one involving reader and one involving advertisers, have brought chaos to a once- stable industry.

5. The Great Gathering; or, The Fine Art of Using Other

People’s Content

The Internet news revolution is beginning to create new middlemen offering reading and advertising choices. The winners round up lots of content, and they do it quickly.

6. It’s a Pro- Am World

The audience is talking back, engaging with each other and creating “content.” News companies increasingly are embracing this new Pro- Am world.

7. Reporters Become Bloggers

We all know what a story is and what a blog is, right? We all know

what a reporter is and what a blogger is, right? Guess again.

8. Itch the Niche

“General news” is dying. Topical products from business and technology

and travel to sports, health, and even politics take their place.

9. Apply the 10 Percent Rule

It used to be man or machine. Now it’s both, as the heavy lifting of journalism can be aided and abetted by smart use of technology.

10. Media Learn How to Market, Marketers Find New Ways

to Make the Most of Media

Old marketing techniques are expensive, inefficient, and oh-so yesterday.

How viral marketing is being used by media and to sway the media.

11 : For Journalists’ Jobs, It’s Back to the Future

Journalists are taking a page from the history books, having to balance

multiple skills and multiple gigs, to keep their heads above water.

12 : Mind the Gaps

We can see the blue sky of a journalism renaissance . . . but first

we’ve got to cross a chasm of pain.

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