As media companies diversify, news is no longer front and centre

By Dr. Merja Myllylahti

Auckland University of Technology (AUT)

Auckland, New Zealand


I wonder if news media companies’ digital transformation, revenue diversification, and content bundling throw the baby out with the bathwater.

As a part of my academic research, I recently came across Poynter’s article considering The New York Times’ most recent quarterly results. The article pondered whether the NYT can still be categorised as a news company as it expands its digital transformation with new services and products. Poynter refers to an earnings review provided by Zacks that labels the NYT as a “diversified media conglomerate.”

So, not a news organisation.

As The New York Times expands its product and service offerings, its mission remains focused on journalism but not news.
As The New York Times expands its product and service offerings, its mission remains focused on journalism but not news.

The New York Times Inc. defines itself as a company that is “dedicated to helping people understand the world through on-the-ground, expert, and deeply reported independent journalism.” Its mission and values talk about journalism, but not news. Sanoma describes itself as an “innovative and agile learning and media company.” Refreshingly, Nikkei describes itself as a news company with the “newspaper businesses as a core” of its operations.

According to Gannett, the company is a “subscription-led and digitally focused media and marketing solutions company.” It says the company “touches the lives of millions with our Pulitzer-Prize-winning content, consumer experiences, and advertiser products and services.” But it does not mention the news.

When Gannett CEO Mike Reed was recently asked whether he is concerned that the company’s diversification to multiple ventures could dilute its news brand, he answered that the other brands “complement our mission to empower communities to thrive” and that new revenue streams “help us to ensure we can support our ongoing news efforts in an increasingly digital world.”

At a time when trust in news is declining, I worry audiences struggle to differentiate between news media and social media. When the younger generations are still interested in and consume the news, would it not make sense to advocate the news as a core of news business?

A recent survey by the American Press Institute shows Millennials and Gen Z use traditional news outlets to consume the news. In the United States, “nearly three-quarters” or 74% of those 16- to 40-year-olds receive news and information “at least weekly from traditional news sources such as national or local TV and newspapers, including their Web sites or apps.” They also pay for news and follow hard news.

It is the news produced by professional journalists that separate them from social media, where the spread of disinformation is rife and where journalists are increasingly attacked. As a Reuters study notes, “negative perceptions about journalism are widespread and social media is one of the most often-cited places people say they see or hear criticism of news and journalism.”

So, why are news publishers not making noise about the news?

About Dr. Merja Myllylahti

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