The winter of journalism’s content

The Australian’s Media section doesn’t shirk from running stories debunking myths about the internal workings of the media and the challenges facing the industry.

The winter of journalism’s content (offline) says online publishing, which is widely expected to replace newspapers and magazines, will only go so far in replacing them and leave a gaping hole.

Online publishing economics mean there isn’t enough money to pay for in-depth news investigations and the searching features on politics, crime and other social issues that are important to modern democracy.

Advertisers are bailing out of print publications. They like the web seeing it as a more cost-effective and accountable medium (that’s disputable).

Online advertisers like to place messages next to niche interest stories to more closely target readers: car makers buy ads on pages featuring lightweight driving stories.

Even if a publisher could find the money to produce hard news stories, advertisers wouldn’t want them. The obvious answer is to publish fewer hard news stories and more of the marketable lightweight fluff. However, those difficult, hard news stories sold printed newspapers in the first place.

But this vicious economic cycle is nothing compared to what can happen in a society that no longer has a way of scrutinising governments and out-of-control corporations.