Understanding the Business of Journalism: The Columbia J-School Report

Everybody in journalism should spend time reading Columbia Journalism School's voluminous new report on the digital journalism business. Bill Grueskin and team have done a superb job of surveying and encapsulating, in very clear (and clear-eyed) language, the current state of the online journalism business, including a wealth of interesting examples and case studies.

It's hard to summarize the many findings here, many of which have been clear to a lot of us for a long time. At the risk of oversimplifying, I'd say the report concludes that there's money to be made in digital journalism, that there are online news sites making money (usually by keeping costs very low), and that the onus is on legacy journalism businesses to double-down further reinvent themselves to adapt to the revolutionary changes in the industry.

But probably the best conclusion in the study is a striking quote from Randall Rothenberg, the former New York Times reporter who now runs the Internet Advertising Bureau: 

"Here's the problem: Journalists just don't understand their business."

Amen to that. I'm becoming more involved in teaching business and entrepreneurialism to journalists (I taught an entrepreneurialism course at University of Maryland this semester, I'm leading a session on business at a Knight Digital Media Center journalist "boot camp" next week, etc.) for precisely that reason: It's critically important that journalists become more business-literate and understand how their business works. Reading the Columbia report will go a long way towards educating journalists about their business, what's happening to it, and how to start fixing it.

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