Fake news will rise as news media continues to fail

The fake news epidemic is a direct result of our failure to create a stable business model for professional news media. And this situation is going to get much worse.
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor

The 'Fake News' epidemic is a direct result of our continued failure to create a stable business model around professional news media. We seem to have forgotten that the news media sector continues to be in turmoil.

Look at a few of the headlines above from last year -- and in just the first few days of 2017:

- Medium- one of the most popular online publishing sites says it will cut 50 jobs and change to an unspecified business model. Medium was founded by Ev Williams, founder of Blogger, co-founder of Twitter. It doesn't pay for much of it's content yet this digital-first social media savvy media company is struggling. All media companies are in the disruptive path - not just digital.

Also: Google's big crackdown: 1.7 billion bad ads axed, plus bans for 200 fake news sites | Can the law stop fake news and hoax-spreading bots? These politicians think so | Fake news: It's not just for politics anymore

Ev Williams wrote:

2016 was our best year yet. Key metrics, such as readers and published posts were up approximately 300% year on year. And we witnessed important stories published on Medium - from world-famous leaders to unknown individuals - on a daily basis.

- New York Times also reported growth in readers but warned of further cuts.

Our global audience surpassed 200 million monthly users, a multiple of our reach a few years ago. We have seen remarkable growth in our community of engaged readers and paying digital subscribers, surpassing our most ambitious projections.

...Nothing can disguise the fact that the continued shift from print to digital demands a somewhat smaller and more focused newsroom.

Some more 2017 bad news:

After Buyouts and Layoffs, Nearly Two Dozen People Will Leave the Seattle Times Newsroom - Slog - The Stranger

Pandora Reducing Workforce by 7% | Variety

Fusion Faces Its New Reality - WWD Condé Nast Braces for Consolidations This Week Ahead of Annual Meetings - WWD

Condé Nast Braces for Consolidations This Week Ahead of Annual Meetings - WWD

More readers... but less revenues

Medium's 300-percent growth is an example of one of the most painful paradoxes in the media industry: reporting large new audiences and falling revenues. Media companies have to run forward constantly just to stand still. There is no stable business model.

It is all because advertising has to compete against the ever-lower cost, ever-wider reach of advertising from Google and Facebook.

Foremski's Take: This is a serious failure of the internet and its collective hive mind of visionaries, computer experts, and software engineers -- the world's top gray matter.

Googols of top neurons connecting over the internet and we still haven't figured out a way to collect the true monetary value of professional news media so that it can be reinvested in producing more high quality media.

Since 2005, after leaving the Financial Times, I've warned that if we can't find a way to pay for professional media then society will pay for it in many unpleasant ways such as a rise of misinformation from special interest groups.

People won't pay for the news media they should be reading but special interest groups will gladly pay for the media the media they want them to read.

We have important decisions to make about a large number of issues, such as the economy, the environment, energy, education, elder healthcare (and those are just the ones that begin with the letter "E" -- there's plenty more issues).

With bad information, we won't be able to make good decisions. Software engineers call this "GIGO" -- Garbage In Garbage Out.

It's going to get worse. In an era of free online media the value of free speech is worth about the same: nothing. If it is not seen online, then it doesn't exist.

Today, it is very easy to buy traffic to whatever special interest groups want to be seen by millions. Money has always been able to buy influence, but now it can now buy influence on an industrial scale.

And money has access to the all best technologies of influence -- the powerful personalization technologies of the ad tech industry.

It's not a level playing field, and that's dangerous in a democracy. This is where we need important innovations.

Fake news is a result of the media having no stable business model:

Editorial standards