• Daniel Mollenkamp

Indoors, online, and under-pressure (Impact of Covid-19 on journalism)

One of the negative externalities of COVID-19 on journalism, my profession, has been a paradoxical one.

Largely, journalists are reporting to me an uptick in traffic, but, for obvious reasons, a downtick in advertiser revenue. This means that there may be more eyeballs than ever on journalistic products-- and perhaps even a solid understanding of the need for these products-- but individual journalists are facing cutbacks, furloughs, layoffs, and, in the freelancer pool in which I exist, a severe drop off of commissions. It has been traumatic for a large swath of the industry.

All the while, some journalists are taking extreme risks to keep the faucets of public information flowing. This is critical in particular because the chances of political opportunism (one of the unsung villains of the crisis) are high. The risk of misinformation, even among well-informed people, is also high. 

This seems to speak to a structural issue journalism was facing generally: people are starving for the product and eager to consume journalistic output, but they are not desirous to pay for it (who doesn't hate subscriptions?!). 

Also relevant: companies facing structural problems before the crisis are poorly positioned to survive it. In that sense, media companies have been hurting for a while and this is an acceleration of downward spiral for some. 

Thoughts on how we can fight this trend?

What lessons should media companies derive from the crisis?

* There are individual exceptions. One exception to this trend that I have been made aware of is Hearst Media, which owns several high-profile glossies and dozen or so dailies. They have reportedly assured no layoffs. The reasons: private company (less severe investor obligations) with a big and diverse portfolio (can off-set costs). 


Daniel Mollenkamp

Journalist and researcher (US)




* Written several weeks ago. Newer info is available elsewhere.

* Image pulled from here

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