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Knight Foundation Grants Offer Hope for Journalism

In Media on June 17, 2010 at 8:11 am

Yesterday for the fourth year in a row, the Knight Foundation offered up millions of dollars as part of its News Challenge to people and groups with ideas about how to keep journalism relevant.

The 12 projects, which will split $2.74 million, include: new tools allowing bloggers and journalists to illustrate raw data; a planned marketplace that will allow people to pitch story ideas to local public radio stations and to help pay to have them produced and a video-editing studio that will exist in a “cloud.”

“Until someone figures out the next big thing — the next killer app that might provide blockbuster connectivity and information sharing to masses of people — we can use the Knight News Challenge to experiment with ways to learn how to think in different ways about information sharing so we might discover the future of news,” said Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibargüen.

And that’s really what it’s all about — looking for the next big thing.

It’s not exactly a secret that newspaper circulation has been declining in recent years. What doesn’t get talked about quite as much is the fact that when it comes to e-editions, newspapers have seen their circulations climbing; up forty percent the first three months of this year when compared to the same period last year.

The Financial Times is a good example. The Los Angeles Times reported earlier this week the paper has been looking for other streams of revenue such as online — some 126,000 people have paid $299 for online access, a 15% bump from the year before — and hosting FT branded conferences.

As a result of their online strategy, the Los Angeles Times reports, the FT expects one third of their revenue will come from digital work by 2012 while most publishers struggle to see that number hit 10% and that “the company expects this year that direct payments for its journalism will exceed print advertising revenue.”

FT CEO John Ridding is quoted as saying: “Advertising alone is not going to sustain the kind of professional newsrooms that news organizations need and that readers expect.”

That’s at least part of the reason you’re going to see The New York Times start a paywall next year and why they’ve been pushing their store and continue to expand their online efforts.

And while revenue was probably not the motivating factor behind the Miami Herald’s decision to make a documentary about the earthquake in Haiti, it is a good example of a paper looking beyond print.

Meanwhile, the push to make the most of iPads and its tablet cousins continues unabated.

The Poynter Institute just concluded a two-day seminar: “The Power of Tablets: How the iPad and Others are Reshaping the Digital Revolution.”

According to Staci Kramer of paidContent, that in his keynote address, famed newspaper designer Mario “Garcia told news organizations they are already behind if they don’t have or aren’t planning a tablet edition” and added “Does it mean print is on the way out? Not at all… The tablet is the brother or sister to print like online never was.”

The lesson is that newspapers may be having issues but news isn’t.

As Ibargüen said in announcing this year’s Knight Challenge winners: “The free flow of shared information is essential for communities to function in a democracy.  More each day, that information flows through and because of digital technology.”

Don’t give up on papers and, certainly, don’t give up on news organizations. They are hopefully continuing to look for new ways to present the news and engage their readers.

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