As America’s newspapers shrink and shed staff, and broadcast news outlets sink in the ratings, a new kind of Web-based news operation has arisen in several cities, reports the NY Times.
Here it is VoiceofSanDiego.org, offering a brand of serious, original reporting by professional journalists — the province of the traditional media, but at a much lower cost of doing business. Since it began in 2005, similar operations have cropped up in New Haven, the Twin Cities, Seattle, St. Louis and Chicago. More are on the way.
Their news coverage and hard-digging investigative reporting stand out in an Internet landscape long dominated by partisan commentary, gossip, vitriol and citizen journalism posted by unpaid amateurs.
The fledgling movement has reached a sufficient critical mass, its founders think, so they plan to form an association, angling for national advertising and foundation grants that they could not compete for singly. And hardly a week goes by without a call from journalists around the country seeking advice about starting their own online news outlets.
The problem, says Verve, is that local papers do not have the resources, expertise or relationships with cellphone carriers to build mobile sites themselves. Verve does it for them, in exchange for a cut of ad revenue. Verve has developed a number of proprietary applications, including a mobile-ready suite of Vertical Applications, Sponsored Alerts, Classified Advantage and Verve’s Adcel, a local advertising management system.
A Newspaper Association of America graph shows a decline in paid readership every year beginning in 1993 when the total was a little more than 62.5 million. That shrunk to about 53.2 million in 2006.
Total newspaper advertising revenues fell by $3 billion in the first six months of this year to $18.8 billion, the lowest level in a dozen years, according to the Newspaper Association of America. Ad revenue is four-fifths of a daily paper’s income.
This quarter, newpapers recorded a record 14% sales plunge and the first-ever drop in online sales. For the entire first half, online sales rose a modest $35 million, or 2.3%, to a bit less than $1.6 billion.
By the year 2020, print ad revenue will be about half what it is today, while online ad revenue will be more than 10 times what it is today, says one industry observer. Still, only 21 percent of U.S. adult mobile phone owners use the mobile Internet, and only 7 percent do so at least once a week, according to Forester.
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