To be clear, if trends hold true, this is more of a story about resisting decline than it is about accelerating growth. The idea up for grabs is not that news media companies have identified reliable avenues of revenue growth, but that they face an industry-wide problem (a crisis, if we want to be dramatic) that has been growing for a number of years.
The debate over how the Internet would change news media began pretty much moment the Weekend City Review uploaded its first summary of the week’s news in 1991, one of the earliest incidences of a hard-copy subscription-based news service making the leap. Before that, in the late 1980s, pure-play online newspapers did exist, but primarily in localized networks.
The dot-com era has now come and gone (today could probably be dubbed the social-media era), and the digitization of news media is old-hat. The Internet did such a good job democratizing the creation of and access to content that the exclusivity of a breaking story pretty much vanished overnight. Anybody anywhere could publish and read news content for free. The previous printing, distribution, and human capital infrastructure vanished and, as a result, many news outlets, both small and large, collapsed. The conversation about the breakdown of the traditional 80/20 advertising/circulation revenue model seems quaint in its antiquity at this point.
Producers and consumers of news media have pretty much adapted to the new norm, which is: if you don’t swim as hard and as smart as you can, you will drown in the oversupply of information and the tyranny of stupid popular things…