AT A JOURNALISM conference last year, I proposed that we may be facing a market failure in journalism. The idea is hardly new. Still, a couple economists in the room were skeptical. “It’s not market failure when people don’t want to buy your product anymore,” one of them told me. However, the economic crisis in journalism is a lot more complex than what this economist described—and the coronavirus pandemic helps to make that crystal clear.
As the number of coronavirus cases has skyrocketed, so has consumer demand for news on the pandemic. According to an internal Facebook report, more than half of the articles being consumed on the platform are coronavirus related, and Facebook-driven traffic to news sites has spiked by more than 50 percent. The report highlights an overall “unprecedented increase in the consumption of news articles on Facebook.” News sites are reporting traffic increases that are anywhere from two to four times their normal levels. Even the stodgy old nightly broadcast network newscasts are getting more viewers than they’ve had in 15 to 20 years.
Yet as demand surges, news organizations’ ability to monetize their product is declining. BuzzFeed’s Craig Silverman has described the coronavirus moment as “a media extinction event.” Newspapers across the country are laying off staff and canceling print editions. Many digital-only outlets appear to be suffering as well. Local news outlets have been hit particularly hard. We should see a wave of closures rock the news industry very soon, compounding an already dire situation. How can this be happening at a time when the demand for journalism is at a peak?
Seguir leyendo: Wired