Do you remember TV in 2007? Reality shows dominated the schedule. But viewer disenchantment with American Idol combined with new offerings helped reshape scripted entertainment. Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video proved a new model was possible. The same model may be playing out for journalism now.
Netflix piled up 91 nominations at the 2017 Emmys, nearly doubling its nominations for 2016. Streaming shows like Transparent and Stranger Things made up a huge percentage of the Emmy nominees. That’s up from zero percent a decade ago.
Netflix was founded 10 years ago, the same year a Hollywood writer friend lamented the demise of scripted entertainment. Inexpensive reality shows like Survivor and American Idol pushed more expensive scripted shows off the schedule. We couldn’t see then how powerful Netflix would become for Hollywood writers. In a world of infinite free “entertainment” people choose to pay $8 per month to Netflix for something better. Many people consider the current market the golden age of scripted entertainment.
Journalism is having a similar crisis today. In the past 15 years, more than half the jobs in the news industry have disappeared, according to a US Bureau of Labor Statistics report released in April. In January 2001, the industry employed 411,800 people. In September 2016, that number plummeted to 173,709.
A lot of good people don’t care about journalism. They get their news from Facebook or other aggregators. These are the same people who stuck it out with American Idol rather than pay for Netflix.
The Emmy Awards suggest that a Netflix savior may be coming for journalism. It might be borne of innovation, such as an app and subscription that delivers professional news from multiple sources. It might be borne of frustration among consumers for journalism that’s more substantive than the Huffington Post. It might be the scary political direction this country is going in the post-fact era.
In any case, cheer for the Netflix, Hulu and Amazon nominees. You may not like the shows but you will love where they are headed.