This Is The End Of An Era For The US News Media

My Comments: Fortunately, I live in a relatively small rural town that still has a viable daily newspaper. That’s not to say I haven’t thought about unsubscribing since it’s now much thinner than before and yet much more expensive. What cost about $25 for a month’s delivery to my house in 2013 is now $75.

To the extent daily newspapers have provided a community with knowledge and awareness of every day life to include even such mundane things as obituaries, their disappearance is going to have a profound effect on the social fabric of this nation. I have no idea what is going to replace that function.

Some of it will come from our phones and other electronic devices, but to the extent there is economic disparity across any given community, the inability of those on the lower end of the scale has to be profound. But that’s not new, since the increase in just seven years from $25 per month to $75 per month means too many people have already walked away from reading daily newspapers.

I hate to give it up, but the value proposition for me is rapidly shrinking.

by Andy Meek \ 8 Nov 2020 \

President-elect Joe Biden finally gave the victory speech on Saturday night in Wilmington, Delaware, that his supporters had been anticipating since Tuesday, following days of interminably slow vote-counting in several battleground states which postponed an official resolution of the contest between Biden and President Trump. Most Americans, aside from the crowds in the streets with signs in support of Biden and those who attended the victory speech itself on Saturday night, experienced the events of the day through the prism of news media coverage.

Which is important to mention, because President Trump’s favorite antagonists, as a collective, are likewise on the precipice of a new era — an industry-wide turning of the page, which the Trump exit can be seen as marking the beginning of.

The advent of a new year is set to bring epochal change to newspapers, broadcast news, digital news outlets and more, for similar reasons which they all share as well as the idiosyncrasies that define them individually. Legacy brands like The New York Times NYT +3.4% as well as scrappy digital properties (Axios, BuzzFeed News) documented each extraordinary moment of the Trump era, and especially the battles for racial justice and the effects of the devastating COVID-19 crisis. It will soon be apparent, if it’s not already, how much change is now set to unfold across the width and breadth of the Fourth Estate that’s been so crucial to our understanding of the world these past four years, especially. Here are five things to watch for:

Goodbye to the “Trump bump”

In some ways, President Trump’s election in 2016 was a boon to news publishers. Here was the ascension to the most powerful office in the world by a candidate like no other, and readers were hungry for information to help them make sense of it all. It’s a trend that has dominated the president’s extraordinary four-year tenure, even up to the point of his defeat by Biden. The Guardian UG +0.4%, for example, reported its best-ever digital traffic day on November 4, notching more than 190 million page views globally in 24 hours, according to Adweek. Likewise, some 116 million unique visitors visited CNN’s digital presence that same day — giving it, too, a record. The Washington Post beat its best-ever pageview record by more than 40%, and The Philadelphia Inquirer said new subscribers are up 83% over the past week.

Media analyst Alex DeGroote told Adweek that when Trump is no longer the president, “this bump will fade. The post-Trump world may feel very boring, and this may impact news consumption.” How outlets retool their newsrooms for the post-Trump era, when the White House is no longer covered breathlessly like a nonstop reality TV show, is closely linked to another crucial media reality:

The ongoing shift to digital

In some respects, the “Trump bump” papered over deficiencies and bought time for some outlets that still haven’t completed this transformation. It’s easier to strategize, if you’re a legacy brand like the NYT, how you’ll continue shifting the focus of the whole enterprise to a digital-first future when the Trump era — and all of the indispensable reportage it fostered — is helping you rack up subscribers and make money hand over fist. In a more normalized world — call it the Great News Media Reset of 2021 — the tide will go back out, and old problems will need to be addressed. Perhaps it’s the albatross of newsprint that’s keeping a digital-sorta outlet hamstrung. Publishers like BuzzFeed, meanwhile, are only just now figuring out the magic formula to fuel the commercial imperatives of their business (the right mix of reporting talent, which draws eyeballs and advertiser dollars, which allows for the funding of more on the news side, and on and on that circle spins — ideally, anyway). This transformation, of course means different things to different people. When most people think of CNN, for example, they probably think of the 24-7 cable TV news channel, when in fact there’s a robust CNN digital news operation that stands on its own — even as both it and the TV side inform each other. CNN Digital would quickly wither if it was allowed to become some sort of hollow shadow of its TV news cousin, which means it needs its own identity, its own resources, and its own strategy to make it a commercial success. Coronavirus, meanwhile, has been brutal to much of the business engine that underpins all kinds of news operations, grinding advertising and marketing spending to a halt. And speaking of the coronavirus:


Sometime in 2021, God willing, we will slowly but surely start to see the beginning of the end of the coronavirus pandemic. White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has said a successful COVID-19 vaccine could materialize as soon as January. There would, of course, be some period of time after that which would be required for the vaccine to be disseminated widely and for its effect to trickle out into the population. But, eventually, the cadence of COVID coverage by the media will change. Those daily trackers of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths will hopefully soon stop ticking inexorably upward, and hopefully sometime in 2021 they’ll be moved off of the homepage of countless news sites. All the coverage of the virus, though, including the trends and consequences of its unchecked spread — eventually, that journalistic firepower will have to be shifted to something else. As the pandemic fades, will outlets preserve some of that reportage to cover climate change? To beef up health coverage? 

Institutional change

The past year or so, meanwhile, has laid bare some institutional challenges at various news properties that it will be fascinating to watch resolve themselves over the short- and long-term. We’ll name just two, both newspapers — the NYT and The Wall Street Journal. I’ve dived into some of the problems besetting the WSJ at the moment, like internal strife between its news and opinion pages. But the paper itself is also trying to navigate the treacherous, rocky terrain that so many newspapers are traversing right now, with an internal report laying bare things like the Journal’s graybeards being too concerned with a print edition and print subscribers that are aging fast, not to mention playing to clubby, exclusive audiences. Meantime, the NYT just a few days ago gave a more detailed look at the success it’s having in becoming increasingly a digital-first journalistic proposition, announcing that for the third quarter (for the first time, ever) the Times’ digital subscriber revenue eclipsed that from newspaper subscriptions. “Our strategy of making journalism worth paying for continues to prove itself out,” Meredith Kopit Levien, who took over as CEO of the Times’ parent company in September, said during the company’s latest earnings announcement. The success of newspapers like these and others, including The Financial Times, will continue to be closely watched, especially since there’s a feeling that if the much-vaunted digital transition is too tall an order for them to sufficiently pull off, what hope does a smaller publisher have?

The late-night crowd

We’ve talked a lot about web properties, newspapers, even a little about TV news — all of which have similar decisions to make, for example, about where they’ll direct reporting talent currently focused on Trump, coronavirus, and the like. Let’s now say a word, though, about the news-related content which fuels late-night talk shows from the likes of Jimmy Fallon, James Cordon, Jimmy Kimmel, and Stephen Colbert. Lest we forget, appearances on late-night shows like some of those helped acclimate viewers to Donald Trump as a public figure. During the 2016 campaign, Fallon participated in a ridiculous sketch with Trump in which Fallon plays Trump’s reflection — with the conceit of the sketch being that Trump is essentially interviewing himself:

The late-night hosts have mostly shifted — not completely, but to a degree — away from this kind of thing, and from the frivolity that dominated the shows in the pre-Trump, pre-COVID era. A staffing change in recent days involving The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon head writer Rebecca Drysdale, however, points to another shift we might see more of in the wake of Trump’s exit. Call it a moving away from the use of comedy to normalize the abnormal.

In a message to her Facebook friends that was obtained by The Chicago Sun-Times, Drysdale, a Second City alumnus, wrote that she was leaving after seven months on the job: “They made it clear that I was not a good fit for the show, and I did not disagree. I wish it had gone differently and I had been able to be what they needed but that is not how it shook out.” 

“I am making the decision for myself to never work on, write, or be involved with, another Trump sketch ever again … I have landed in several jobs and situations over the last few years, not just ‘The Tonight Show,’ where the project of making fun of Trump, or doing material about Trump, has led to divided creative teams, anxiety, tears and pain. I can’t decide the outcome of this election, but I can make the choice for myself, to vote him out of my creative life.”