'Tis the season of Pew Research reports, and this week's State of the News Media 2012 says we're living in "the age of mobile, in which people are connected to the web wherever they are."
First, the good news:
Mobile devices are adding to people’s news consumption, strengthening the lure of traditional news brands and providing a boost to long-form journalism. Eight in ten who get news on smartphones or tablets, for instance, get news on conventional computers as well. People are taking advantage, in other words, of having easier access to news throughout the day – in their pocket, on their desks and in their laps.
Cue the inevitable "however":
In the last year a small number of technology giants began rapidly moving to consolidate their power by becoming makers of "everything" in our digital lives. Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and a few others are maneuvering to make the hardware people use, the operating systems that run those devices, the browsers on which people navigate, the e-mail services on which they communicate, the social networks on which they share and the web platforms on which they shop and play.
Or more succinctly: "Technology intermediaries now control the future of news."
The Nieman Journalism Lab explains, "Last year, five technology giants — not including Apple and Amazon — generated 68 percent of all digital ad revenue."
Mobile and social media could play to the strengths of alternative weeklies. The sector has long distinguished itself by the voice and point of view of its writers, something that fits well with new media.
In addition, many of the publications see themselves as a "go to" source for information on restaurants, concerts and other local events. Providing this kind of information on mobile devices is a natural opportunity for these brands.
Peter Kafka at AllThingsD asks: "Is the Times cutting back on its free reads because: A) It can, having proved that people will pay to read the paper online? or B) It has to, because the rest of its business continues to weaken?
I always think diversity initiatives should be rooted in journalism. What do you hope this person may add to your coverage that you don't have now? Could having a Spanish-speaking intern who cares about immigration issues add value? If that person is also Latino, you have diversified your newsroom with the goal of making your coverage more diverse.
What [Debra] Bruno's column [on affirmative action] ultimately misses is the notion that having a diverse staff and field of interns is a step toward more balanced and less myopic coverage, which hopefully translates into more accurate coverage. On the national stage, everything from the death of pop star Whitney Houston to the shooting of Florida teen Trayvon Martin has benefited from the voices of qualified, perceptive journalists of color who see stories from a slightly different cultural perspective.
We beat up our newsrooms, exhausted everyone, and pinned our hopes for transformation on a succession of big bets. Our expectations were both too low and too high. We misread how radical the shift in technology would be and how broad our response would have to be. At the same time we missed how myriad would be the opportunities this shift would create.