Pearlstine Upbeat on Media Outlook

Feb 242010

Norman Pearlstine addresses the students in the Global Business Journalism Program

Despite a gloomy situation for newspapers, especially in the United States, a top executive of one of the world’s largest business media companies says the current era may prove to be a “golden age” for journalism.

Norman Pearlstine, former editor-in-chief of Time Inc. and chief content officer for Bloomberg L.P., made the remarks in a recent talk to students in the Global Business Journalism (GBJ) program at Tsinghua University. The International Center for Journalists launched GBJ in partnership with the Tsinghua School of Journalism and Communication in Sept. 2007.

Pearlstine drew from his decades of experience in the media industry to discuss changes wrought by technology and to share his outlook on the future.

Current difficulties notwithstanding, Pearlstine thinks that technology and the power of the Internet can help produce journalism of exceptional quality.

“The tools available have never been better,” he said, predicting “a golden age of the ability of journalists to research and write great stories.”

He admitted media faces a steep uphill battle. Media’s dependence on traditional advertising for revenue is outmoded, and many companies — especially U.S. newspapers —will not make it in this drastically changed environment, according to Pearlstine.

The Internet, especially search engines that provide information quickly and efficiently, threaten to render traditional media obsolete — unless companies adapt and develop new business models, he said.

Norman Pearlstine is flanked by Nailene Wiest, Margie Freaney and students of the GBJ program

“Journalism will continue, but the business model will change,” he predicted.

Providing specialized information in greater depth to selected audiences is one way that media companies can compete effectively, he said.

Bloomberg has $6 billion in revenue annually, charging clients to use its terminal, which provides not only news but also data, analytical information and charts that investors and financial specialists find invaluable.

Another bright spot will be magazines that deliver specialized content to targeted audiences, said Pearlstine, who was named chairman of BusinessWeek in October when Bloomberg announced it would take over the magazine.

Asked by the students about future job opportunities, he was upbeat, especially in the more specialized media. Manzie Vincent Doh, a student who has been a journalist in Cameroon, appreciated Pearlstine’s viewpoint.

It was, he said, “an inspiring speech, some sort of an eye opener which actually enabled us to understand the real media world when it comes to print media versus electronic media.” 

Alfred Charles Co is a student in the Global Business Journalism program. Chinawatt Amnuepol contributed to this story.