How the Coronavirus could hurt the news business

news for free

How the Coronavirus could hurt the news business

By Jon Allsop

THE PAYWALLS ARE COMING DOWN. As the news about the coronavirus has intensified, major outlets—including Bloomberg, the Wall Street JournalThe Atlantic, the Seattle Times, and McClatchy, the newspaper chain that recently filed for bankruptcy—have made some or all of their virus coverage available for free to non-subscribers. Yesterday, the New York Times followed suit. (It’s collated its free coronavirus content on a special landing page; you’ll need to create an account to access it, if you don’t have one already.) Yesterday, Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the Times, said, on a call with staff, that the virus is the biggest story the world has seen since 9/11.

At moments like this, offering up-to-date, reliable information that everyone can access is a good thing to do. It could also be good for business. As Tom Meyvis, a professor at New York University, told Adweek’s Sara Jerde yesterday, for some outlets, freeing up information on the coronavirus may reach new readers, “who may stick with the publication afterward and perhaps be willing to pay later if they are impressed.” There is enormous interest in the news right now, and major national news organizations have moved quickly to capitalize; collectively, they’ve flooded the market with coronavirus podcasts, newsletters, and other products, many of them free. BuzzFeed, for instance, launched a newsletter called “Outbreak Today.” Its logo is an emoji wearing a face mask. The coronavirus has dominated regular programming on cable news, as both CNN and MSNBC have broadcast special programming in which medical experts have answered viewers’ questions. Last week, CNN hosted a coronavirus town hall with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, its chief medical correspondent; last night, it held another one, with Facebook and Instagram users from around the world asking questions. There was no studio audience.

Still, the disruption caused by the coronavirus risks impinging on news organizations’ ability to function. As I wrote earlier this week, routine reporting will become harder the more society is walled off. And as Joshua Benton, of Nieman Lab, has noted, the virus has the potential to pull the bottom out of an advertising market that has been tough on many media companies for years. Last week, the Times said it was already seeing an advertising slowdown, which executives attribute to uncertainty caused by the virus—and that was before the rapid escalation of recent days. If the economy tips into recession, the effect on advertising could be dire.

As Benton has observed, the coronavirus could prove to be a disaster for local outlets, in particular. Despite industry-wide declines in print circulation, many newspapers still rely on dead-tree products for the bulk of their revenue; what happens when newspaper carriers become virus carriers, and get taken off their routes? Swathes of the local news market are controlled by a handful of financial firms that have already made painful cuts to their media properties; if owning newspapers becomes an (even more) unattractive proposition, the moneymen could simply decide to bail, and what then? Even the nonprofit news model—which has often been held up as a viable alternative to the caprices of private ownership—is not immune. As markets sag, major foundation funders might scale back their giving to protect their endowments.

Some local outlets are hurting already. Yesterday, Sarah Scire, Benton’s colleague at Nieman Labpointed to the example of The Stranger, an alt-weekly (which publishes biweekly) in Seattle, Washington, where the coronavirus first caused major problems on American soil. The Stranger derives 90 percent of its revenue from holding its own events and providing a marketplace for others—in short, its survival depends on “people getting together in groups.” On Wednesday, The Stranger’s Twitter account urged readers to donate to keep it afloat. “We pride ourselves on having navigated many storms in the world of independent local media,” the post read, “but this time is different.”

In recent years, we’ve gotten used to hearing dire prognostications about the complete erosion of the local news business in the United States. The coronavirus risks accelerating almost all of the malign trends. Its impact could end up looking loosely analogous to that of the virus itself. Big media companies with healthy finances and growing subscriber bases will likely survive, and could even profit. Outlets with serious underlying health conditions might die.

Below, more on the coronavirus:


Original article


This article ( How the coronavirus could hurt the news business ) was originally created and published by ” Columbia Journalism Review ” and is republished here by The Liberty Beacon (TLB) under “Fair Use” with attribution to author ” Jon Allsop ” and  “ Columbia Journalism Review “.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Jon Allsop is a freelance journalist. He writes CJR’s newsletter The Media Today. Find him on Twitter @Jon_Allsop.

Follow the author



Stay tuned to …


The Liberty Beacon Project is now expanding at a near exponential rate, and for this we are grateful and excited! But we must also be practical. For 7 years we have not asked for any donations, and have built this project with our own funds as we grew. We are now experiencing ever increasing growing pains due to the large number of websites and projects we represent. So we have just installed donation buttons on our websites and ask that you consider this when you visit them. Nothing is too small. We thank you for all your support and your considerations … (TLB)


Comment Policy: As a privately owned web site, we reserve the right to remove comments that contain spam, advertising, vulgarity, threats of violence, racism, or personal/abusive attacks on other users. This also applies to trolling, the use of more than one alias, or just intentional mischief. Enforcement of this policy is at the discretion of this websites administrators. Repeat offenders may be blocked or permanently banned without prior warning.


Disclaimer: TLB websites contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, health, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.


Disclaimer: The information and opinions shared are for informational purposes only including, but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material are not intended as medical advice or instruction. Nothing mentioned is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.