From the counterintuitive files, the Project for Excellence in Journalism came out with its fifth annual look at the media, and it's a doozy of a report.
The study contradicts most of the assumptions we've grown to accept about the impact of technology on media and journalism in the last few years.
Among its findings:
News is shifting from being a product to more of a service.
The days when news sites were final destinations are over.
Prospects for user-generated content now appear more limited.
Madison Avenue does not yet grok the world of new media.
U.S. media coverage is becoming increasingly narrow.
Digging down further, the study takes specific aim at the belief that audience fragmentation is breaking the grip of "media elites."
"Some people even advocate the notion of "The Long Tail," the idea that, with the Web's infinite potential for depth, millions of niche markets could be bigger than the old mass market dominated by large companies and producers.
The reality, increasingly, appears more complex. Looking closely, a clear case for democratization is harder to make. Even with so many new sources, more people now consume what old-media newsrooms produce, particularly from print, than before. Online, for instance, the top 10 news Web sites, drawing mostly from old brands, are more of an oligarchy, commanding a larger share of audience, than in the legacy media.
The verdict on citizen media, for now, suggests limitations. And research shows blogs and public-affairs Web sites attract a smaller audience than expected and are produced by people with even more elite backgrounds than journalists."
But don't take that to mean all is well in the world of the mainstream media. If the authors are right, advertising isn't accompanying the online migration with the consumer. Translation: Media faces both a shrinking audience as well as a "decoupling of news and advertising."
Happy days. So, what's next--the meltdown of the economy? Oh yeah, I forgot. That's already started.