Nobody seems to know the exact number of news media jobs that have been cut during the current recession, but it’s safe to say that there are tens of thousands of fewer working journalists in America today than there were this time last year. Virtually every major online and print newspaper has been cut to the bone, including news titans the L.A. Times to the New York Times. Many papers have or are on the brink of shutting down in Tucson, Seattle, San Francisco, Denver and elsewhere. Even many industry trade publications, which were once thought to be far less vulnerable to advertising rate volatility, have been affected. The list so far includesFinancial Week, Design & Décor, Furniture Style and others.
It should be noted that with few exceptions, these publications aren’t merely shuttering their print versions. In many coverage areas, the news is stopping altogether. The collapse will have major ramifications for the millions of SEOs, bloggers, PR professionals and social media marketers that have come to rely on a steady stream of free content and free media channels on which they have built their professions.
We know that journalism isn’t going away. Like housing, banking and many other industries, there will be survivors, and the survivors may emerge stronger than before. However, it’s looking more and more like the survivors may attempt to revert to the paid subscription models that, by and large, failed miserably during the late 1990s and early 2000s.
New York Times‘ columnist David Carr has created shockwaves through the industry by publicly proposing that the surviving news outlets band together to form a subscription-based service that would be much like cable TV.
If this happens, expect even more big-name bloggers to pack it in, since bloggers by and large are not creating or producing real news, but instead post reactions to free online news written by paid journalists. Expect even more RSS-driven Web sites to collapse of decay as those feeds disappear or are turned off. Look for surviving journalists to get a lot more free lunches and dinners as PR professionals attempt to appeal to a shrinking number of outlets for media placement. And lastly, look for a measurable decrease in posts involving news articles on Facebook, twitter and other social media sites, since everyone knows that it’s bad ettiquette to post links to paid access content.
The silver lining is the possible long term upside for search quality. With fewer scraper sites and RSS-driven sites for search engines to rank and index, the quality of organic search engine results pages is bound to improve. It’s possible that this may create unforseen opportunities for search engine marketers. It may also create opportunities for writers with SEO savvy, as Web publishers seek to replace content that will soon disappear from RSS feeds.