For journalists, it’s less about business, more about audience

[Yelvington](http://www.yelvington.com/blog/yelvington) is talking about [a bias against the business side of journalism](http://www.yelvington.com/20080203/are_journalists_antibusiness) and a class called [Business and Future of Journalism](http://cronkite.asu.edu/mcguireblog/?p=50#more-50).

I would tend to agree that too many members of the [Fourth Estate](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_Estate) are phobic when it comes to dirty words like: *profit*, *return on investment*, and *revenue*.

I applaud the idea behind teaching more journalists more about the business side. Why *wouldn’t* you want to know everything there is to know about your profession — at the very least it’d make it easier for you to argue a point to management.

###If you can’t know it all, know your audience###
If you don’t have the time or the interest to learn about *everything*, then the most important thing for aspiring and practicing journalists to learn about is **the audience**.

In my limited travels it strikes me that a lot of journalists either don’t know, or don’t care about the audience research being conducted. The “don’t know” camp can be helped, but the “don’t care” camp scares me. If we’re not here to write, shoot, design and code for our audience… then who are we doing it for?

If you write a perfectly crafted, exquisitely shot and artfully arranged multi-part public service piece about your local government abusing it’s power but no one read it, **did you every really serve the public**?

(Snarky comment: If we’re not serving the public, and we’re not making money then what are we doing?)

Obviously the business of journalism can’t be summed up as “get lots of readers, get lots of page views” — niche products, advertiser interest and the long tail all serve to make it more complex than that.

However, if you can only know one thing shouldn’t **every journalist** in a newsroom know about **their audience**?

In my twisted brain it’s easier to express the idea in code:

while profit > 0:
    knowledge = conduct_user_research()
    newspaper.staff.improve(based_on=knowledge)
    profit = newspaper.revenue - newspaper.cost

    if profit = None or knowledge = None:
        raise GameOverMan

About Chris

Python developer, Agile practitioner trying desperately not to be a pointy haired boss.
This entry was posted in Business, Journalism, Management. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to For journalists, it’s less about business, more about audience

  1. I’d rewrite it as such:

    while profit > 0:
    knowledge = conduct_user_research()
    newspaper.staff.newsroom.improve(based_on=knowledge)
    newspaper.staff.business.improve(based_on=knowledge)
    profit = newspaper.revenue – newspaper.cost

    if profit < profit.last_year or knowledge = None:
      try:
        newspaper.something_new()
      except:
        raise GameOverMan
    

    It’s a little less bleak, with the option to try something new before raising an exception. And I’d also say that the business side needs to know their audience too.

  2. Chris says:

    I’d definitely agree that the business side needs to know it’s audience… I think everyone needs to know the audience they’re there to serve.

    But, it seems to me, that many journalists can get downright phobic about audience wants and research — thoughts like “we have to give them the news they need, not the news they want” abound.

    Didn’t mean to single out news folks as being the only ones who don’t know their audience — and its certainly not all news folks — but it does seem to be a bit more pandemic, or more willful with that group.

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