The 5 best things we read on the future of news and other stuff worth checking out

We spent eight months researching the media business and read thousands of pages. Here’s what we liked best on the business and the practice of journalism in the digital age. (Fair warning, the J nerd rating on some of these is extremely high.)


1. The Story So Far: What we know about the business of digital journalism, Columbia Journalism School (PDF)

What we liked: A focus on what kinds of digital journalism are commercially viable in the United States, with details reported from the inside of small, medium and large media companies.

Insight: Video is hard. It’s even harder to make it make financial sense. A major TV station delivered 7 million page views but only 622,000 video streams. Result: Only 1 percent of the station’s revenue comes from its website.

2. The Search for a New Business Model: How newspapers are faring trying to build digital revenue, Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (PDF)

What we liked: Insider information about more than a dozen newspapers.

Insight: “One pervasive feeling is that 15 years into the digital transition, executives still feel they are in the early stages of figuring out a how to proceed.”

3. State of the News Media 2012, Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism

What we liked: The annual must-read guide book for, well, the state of the news media.

Insight: Google collects 40 cents of every $1 spent in online advertising. Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft and AOL combine to account for 68 percent of all online advertising. (This was the topic of a previous article.)

4. Entrepreneurial Journalism: How to Build What’s Next for News, by Mark Briggs

What we liked: There’s no whining about how hard the news business is. But there are tons and tons of pragmatic tips about how to build new models for news.

Insight: “The bigger the problem, the bigger the opportunity,” Vinod Khosla, Sun Microsystems co-founder

5. Local web advertising will pass local print advertising next year, Poynter

What we liked: It’s just a few paragraphs but they’re pretty powerful paragraphs.

Insight: Ad spending is moving to the web and mobile. Follow the money.



Steve Buttry. Anything with his name on it. Highlights: Blueprint for the complete community connection and Mobile-first strategy.

Old dogs new tricks and crappy newspaper executives: Raw, funny and dead on. John Paton: “In America from 1985 to 2005 – the very peak of print newspaper advertising revenue – the average annual growth was 2.7%. Again, that was the Golden Era.” For more Paton, David Carr’s November 2011 profile.

The newsonomics of the long goodbye: Kodak’s, Sears’, and newspapers’: The subhead says it all: “How do U.S. newspapers compare to the symbols of old-business-model decline? The numbers don’t look good.” This by one of the leading thinkers in the newspaper business, Ken Doctor. His 2010 book “Newsonomics” is still relevant and his posts for the Nieman Journalism Lab should be in your feed.


Re-Imagining Journalism: Local News for a Networked World: Insight from Michael Fancher, former Seattle Times executive editor and former Emerald editor in chief.

How People Learn About Their Local Community, The Pew Research Center puts numbers to what we all know. People over 40 go to the print newspaper and TV. People under 40 go to the interwebs. Pew has loads of great, publicly available reports and data related to the news business. The most telling stats for our work came from their every-two-year surveys. The most recent was in 2010.

Newspaper Next 2.0: This is dated (Feb. 2008) and dense (110 pages). But it was co-authored by Harvard business professor Clayton Christensen, one of the leading thinkers on disruptive innovation. (See below) Loads of good, basic foundational research and thinking.


Tuned Out: Why Americans under 40 don’t follow the news: This book was published in 2004. Facebook started in 2005. Somehow, it’s still relevant. And also a little scary.

The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book that Will Change the Way You Do Business: A classic in business and tech circles by Clayton Christensen. Should be required J school reading today.

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses: Launch new products at version zero, listen, learn and adapt. Repeat. Lessons for news execs, too.

  • Steve Buttry

    I am flattered by your inclusion and your kind words. I should just note that both of my links that you shared are from 2009. Three years is a long time in the digital world. Though I believe both have value, they are outdated and should be read with that understanding.

    • Ryan Frank

      Steve: Fair enough. But I included them because the fundamental framework you laid out — in my mind at least — remains relevant. Thanks for your contributions.


  • mark woodhams

    Ryan, Great stuff.