Disruption In The Newspaper Industry — A Framework

Even though there have been volumes of work published on every single aspect of the current upheavals changing the face of the newspaper industry, consistent yet simple representations of the big picture seem really hard to come by. Which is why we have tried to create a framework showing a bird’s eye view of these causes and their interrelations.

Most of these trends shape the structural underpinnings of all media types, however our reflections are centered around the newspaper industry in a narrow sense.

Aim — Identify the key drivers of disruption and show how they are connected

Our flowchart is designed to help capture the most important macro trends at a glance, placing them in relation to each other. The first goal of this framework is to create an understanding of the challenges that we face as an industry. The second goal is to allow the mental positioning of projects and activities in relation to the drivers of the current structural change. This can help in assessing various options, identify innovation gaps and synchronize strategic measures. The latter being a step from the «problem level» which is visualized here to developing responses and solutions in order to tackle these challenges.

Diagrams like this are an oversimplification of reality. Yet we think that for practical purposes sometimes exactly this is necessary to facilitate high level strategic discussions.

Explanation — How to read this

By collecting and clustering the topics that are regularly discussed in news industry, we have identified four basic forces that drive the aforementioned structural change:

  1. Increasing content supply in the attention economy
  2. Increasing «power» of the individual
  3. Increasing role of technology in the core business
  4. Traditional business is no longer financially viable

While numbers 1. and 2. can be broadly subsumed under the category of market participants (indicated by the dashed line grouping them together), the forces under 3. all relate to infrastructural changes. Those under 4. fall into the category of monetization issues. Some of the subtrends originate in one category but exert their influence in other categories. «Falling barriers to market entry by declining costs» for example is a subtrend in the infrastructure category yet has «new, digital native content providers» as a consequence. These cases are indicated by corresponding colors. However: If you take away only one thing from this, it would be the four big drivers.

Feedback — A living document

We plan to treat our framework as a «living document» that will be expanded and refined. If you have feedback of any kind — be it criticism or aspects that we didn’t think of, we would greatly appreciate an email to labs_at_nzz.ch. Also: If you want to further discuss these themes, by all means, get in touch.

Hi-Res version (PDF)

This post first appeared on labs.nzz.ch. Founded in 2011, NZZ Labs was the R&D team of Neue Zürcher Zeitung. In 2015, the lab grew to a larger team and got a new name: Entwicklungsredaktion. Which is a rather untranslatable word.

Idea and concept: Florian Steglich, Thom Nagy, Gudrun Moeller. Design: Samuel Raymann. Input: Florian Gossy, Mathias Menzl, David Bauer, Markus Hametner, Nick Lüthi (thanks again!).