Save the Media From This
Jeff Jarvis

The Jig Is Up, But Opportunity Lies Ahead

moving forward in journalism might first require coming to terms with the deceptive business model of the past.

Dear Advertiser: You got charged, regardless if (1) this paper got opened, and (2) the reader saw your message. Sorry! Maybe we shouldn’t have done that in the past. Can we reset expectations now? Sincerely, Publisher

I believe in journalism’s essential role in our civil society as much as any journalism professor, editor or writer.

But let’s face it: the media business had been lying to advertisers for decades regarding circulation and CPMs. Brands simply looked the other way because they had no other viable options:

“We know those circulation #’s don’t accurately reflect the number of actual impressions.”


“Nielsen is a false proxy for viewership because half of America walks out of the room for commercials, and those self-reported journals are a joke.”

Now armed with digital systems of accountability and analytics, the analog jig is up and has been for quite some time. Current CPMs are unfortunately pegged to old-world, faulty metrics — and therefore what should be considered a fair number feels far too high for advertisers. Journalism’s business model of the past had this one key peg of the stool built on lies, which has buckled and haunts them to this day.

Perhaps looking ahead, there’s an opportunity for publishers to admit the sins of the past to advertisers. Who knows, it might clear the way for them to ask for higher CPMs.

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