Publishers send us a lot of books to review, and we wish we could get to them all more quickly. It took us 18 months to finally read Ken Doctor’s Newsonomics, but we’re glad we did. Doctor’s perspectives on the future of news are as fresh today as they were in early 2010. We were surprised and encouraged by his optimism.
Many journalists view the economics of their profession as bitter medicine. Doctor makes it clear that survival in the new world will mean understanding the business, but those journalists who know how to package and market their work will thrive. And they won’t have to sell their souls or lower their standards to do it. Here’s our review on Amazon:
Journalists hate to talk about the economics of their profession, which is why this is such a valuable book. Doctor proceeds from the assumption that the newspaper industry as we have known it is an irreversible decline and that only a handful of national dailies will exist in a few years. There’s no reason to belabor that point, and he doesn’t.
Instead, he devotes the rest of the book to the much more important discussion of how journalism can be reinvented and deliver value in an economically sustainable model. His perspective is both optimistic and uplifting. Doctor sees the end of the vertically integrated news organization as creating opportunities for focused and nimble ventures to emerge that can indeed deliver quality journalism and pay their reporters a living wage. Competition will raise quality standards and ultimately deliver a better product. We have to go through an ugly deconstruction process in order to get there, but Doctor sees bright light at the end of the tunnel.
A lot of journalists are uncomfortable with Doctor’s views because they fear the loss of the comfortable salaries and modest output demands they have long enjoyed. Well, welcome to the new world. Jobs are going away and journalism is becoming a business of self-employed contractors. Journalists with initiative, innovation and skill will be able to make a better living working for multiple masters than they could have made working for media companies. News organizations will be under pressure to be more responsive to their readers’ demands, but Doctor does not believe this will result in the “dumbing down” of news. Tiered models will emerge that deliver high-quality journalism to those who are willing to pay a modest amount for it.
Newsonomics was published 18 months ago, but its lessons and predictions are just as valid today as they were then. This is a clear, concise and ultimately hopeful look at the economics of $45 billion industry in the middle of wholesale reinvention.