Sunday, November 29, 2009

Finding a future business model

I just finished a paper on the future business model of journalism. My first reflection? Finding new sources of money is hard work.

It's difficult to distill all the industry's problems into a coherent blog post. So, I'm going to put one of the lessons we learned in class this semester to good use and link to what I'm just too lazy to explain myself.

In the old, proverbial nutshell, journalism is struggling because the Internet has disrupted the old mass-advertising business model. Journalists never sold their content; they sold their readers — to advertisers. In fact, subscribers to the daily newspaper pay a pittance of the costs that go into producing the paper. The actual cost is heavily subsidized by ad revenue. Accordingly, most people believe pay-walls and subscription content simply won't work as a viable business model. Variations on the pay-wall model could provide some options, but this still lies well within the realm of traditionalist thinking. Some politicians have proposed government plans to save journalists, but most journalists despise the idea of being beholden to the government and doubt public support would allow such a plan to proceed.

But, journalists being journalists, there is an abundance of ideas to reshape the industry. Most seem to be evolved content models, focusing on new ways to gathering and producing news that would add inherent value to the product, and thus, attract more readers and hopefully make it worth forking over some money. Others have approached new revenue models such as low- and non-profits ventures. Still others advocate enhanced services for advertisers to reclaim some of the lost ad revenue.

Frankly, it's not surprising that journalists would write about and post their ideas for the future of journalism — it's what we do. It really opens up the different thought processes to a level of transparency I doubt many other industries experience. I don't doubt, however, that these blogs contain the seeds of journalism's future.

Regardless, having combed the blogs of countless journalists all searching for an answer, it seems a shame not to add my voice as well. Below, I've posted the paper submitted to my graduate business-of-journalism class. I'll admit, much of the paper is set up and explanation (per the professor's request), but I believe in my conclusion. Through synthesizing what many of the more radical voices are saying, I believe journalism must evolve in order to stay relevant on the Internet, and the best way to do this is to offer a unique information service — not too great a stretch for journalists, but enough to jostle the entrenched, corporate side.

Reimagining Journalism and the ‘Service’ Media Business Model