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What is the NYC Media Ecosystem?

How do you define news media in New York City? Who counts? Who doesn’t count? What companies are at the center of the New York City media hub? What about freelancers? New Jersey?

These questions are just some of the challenges that we faced as we began our research into understanding the 21st century newsroom workforce.  

Technological disruption continues to impact the news industry, and many organizations are grappling with the transition to a digital environment, as well as the increasing importance of mobile and social technologies. According to the 2015 Reuters Institute Digital News Report, 25% of those sampled across the globe use a smartphone as the main device for news consumption; in the US alone, 44% use a smartphone to access the news. Further, the report found that 41% of the sample use Facebook for news each week.  The findings are reinforced by Pew’s 2015 study, which found that half of Web-using adults in the US get political news from Facebook.  

So how do modern newsrooms respond to these changes in audience news consumption behavior?

Our research examines changes in the nature of newsroom workforces and changes in the prerequisite skills for news company workers. Digital and data-centric roles requiring computational science and advanced analytic skills occupy a key role in the reinvented production and distribution of news. This is evident, for example, in the ways newsrooms are integrating algorithmic and automated production into traditional news processes. Moreover, a new area of professional expertise is emerging as computational skills and journalistic practice integrate (see our Tow colleagues’ work on Muck, specifically directed at reducing barriers between programmers and non-programmers in the newsroom). The new space is quickly developing, and yet our understanding of this transformation is skin deep.

Our goal is to present a systematic analysis of the challenges facing managers of modern news organizations as newsrooms adapt to increasing complexity and new skill sets in the digital news environment. Our starting point in this research is the NYC media market; this is a biased sample, as it clearly is one of the most active media markets in the country, but it’s also an opportunity to examine a market that is at the forefront of digital boundaries.

Of course, the process must begin with a defensible and representative sample of news media outlets. But again, what counts? We used a combination of databases and sources, including Cision PR and LinkedIn, in order to get a sense of the major news organizations headquartered in NYC. We focused exclusively on organizations that produce daily news, and those that are headquartered in NYC. These were necessary decisions to create a manageable yet defensible study.

This resulted in a sample population consisting of 8,027 employees from a list of 17 organizations including: TheBlaze, NowThis, Slate, The Daily Beast, Mic, Patch, FOX Business Network, MSNBC, BuzzFeed, The New York Daily News, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, FOX News Channel, NBC News, CBS News, ABC News, and The New York Times.
This provides us with a starting point for analyzing the different employment histories of the individuals working at these organizations. There are clearly a number of limitations with this study, as there are with any research. Factors such as data and resource availability mean that you need to make tough decisions about what you’re going to focus your analysis on. Moreover, we’re working with imperfect data. US Census data is outdated; Cision PR database serves another purpose, and LinkedIn data is self-reported, but these are all examples of “best available” data, and we’re working to creatively address many of the challenges associated with this project.

 

This network visualization maps the job histories of 300 employees from the Newsroom21 pilot study analyzing the workforces at Asbury Park Press, Vox Media, and New York Daily News. Organizations are connected with other organizations when multiple employees came from a given organization.

This network visualization maps the job histories of 300 employees from the Newsroom21 pilot study analyzing the workforces at Asbury Park Press, Vox Media, and New York Daily News. Organizations are connected with other organizations when multiple employees came from a given organization.