Tag Archives: business models

A journalistic limbo until we reach The New World

According to many, the perfect storm is approaching. The winds have been whipping for a while. But there’s a problem. The Old King is dying but the New King, apparently, isn’t quite ready yet.

Clay Shirky, internet theorist and the harbinger-in-chief of newspaper death, encapsulated the problem at a recent Harvard Shorenstein Center talk:

“We are headed into a long trough of decline in accountability journalism because the old models are breaking faster than the new models will be put in their place.”

He’s right. But, intriguingly, he also slings in a caveat. Shirky imagines a time in the future when everything is hunky-dory, and a broad conglomeration of multiple news organisations will ‘overlap and provide a small percentage of journalism individually, but taken as a whole, represent the same position of accountability held by newspapers in the 20th century’.

Perhaps. But until then, we’ve got a problem.

So what’s going to happen in this imminent limbo stage; when journalism enters an intermediate ‘state of nature’?

Allow me to imagine…

1) The paywalls go up, and a black market for scoops emerges

Paywalls and micropayment schemes begin to appear on news websites. A few of them make a decent stab of it: News International in particular, as they have a competitive advantage.

As Malcolm Coles at Econsultancy suggests, Murdoch’s sites begin corralling in Sky News, Sky Sports, Fox as well as umpteen other publications and broadcasters that it owns, offering an attractive package behind the wall.

Jason Wilson, writing at NewMatilda.com, suggests that News Corp will ‘draw on its corporate experience with pay television to leverage audiences and money using niche content of various kinds’ kicks in, and, for a while, it all seems to be working.

Desperate to lure readers beyond the paywalls, the organisations that enacted them scramble for scoops. They get dirty. They hunt for drug scandals and nip slips like never before. Investigative journalism becomes feral. They get some real goodies.

Infuriatingly, the exclusives start being screengrabbed and hijacked on pop-up sites.

A black market for scoops emerges,  but readers don’t care if the scoop they are reading is 14th hand and poorly delivered, because they’ve still got it.

Shane Richmond notes in the Telegraph that ‘it doesn’t matter that versions of the story on free sites ‘won’t be as good’ because they’ll be free, which offsets the loss of quality considerably’ (and Google’s Eric Schmidt agrees).
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PCUK/Harris Poll: Readers want to spend as close to nothing as possible for online news

Perhaps unsurprisingly – given Monday’s results indicating that only five per cent of 1,188 users polled by paidContent:UK and Harris Interactive would pay for their preferred news website – people do not want to spend very much either.

“When asked the maximum amount they would be prepared to pay, respondents who read a free news site at least once a month gave us the lowest possible amount in each category – annual subscriptions under £10, a day pass costing under £0.25 and per-article fees of between 1p and 2p.”

Furthermore, PCUK’s Robert Andrews reminds us to bear in mind ‘that most of these readers said they did not want to pay – their answers suggest they may pay even less or not at all’.

Full PCUK findings at this link…

Vancouver’s Tyee raises $15,000 in reader donations

From Alfred Hermida’s Reportr.net comes news that Tyee, an online news site based in Vancouver, has raised $15,000 since asking readers to donate money.

Contributions asked for to fund provincial election coverage and, according to editor David Beers, the money equates to double Tyee’s monthly reporting budget.

Beers discusses the campaign’s success in this video interview:

The Tyee has never asked readers directly for money before – though it does have a foundation to fund some reporting, says Tyee.

The response from readers in this instance has exceeded expectation – interesting to note the ‘serious’ nature of the stories being invested in. Readers are empowering journalists, giving them the resources, and telling them where to deploy them and on what issues; they’re not asking for editorial control, adds Beers.

Clay Shirky: The old model’s broken – don’t try to replace it

“‘If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?’ To which the answer is: Nothing. Nothing will work. There is no general model for newspapers to replace the one the internet just broke,” writes Shirky.

The problem that publishing fixed – reducing the cost and difficulty of making information available to the public – has stopped being a problem because of the internet, he adds. As such it’s becoming less relevant to talk about ‘a publishing industry’.

Full post at this link…

Wrapping up the #cfund debate

Yesterday’s #cfund debate on future business models for online news and journalism had plenty of ideas and voices in the mix.

Journalism.co.uk dipped in and out, but for those of you who want to read the whole thing there’s a Tweet stream and the CoverItLive version.

A handy round-up from participant Paul Balcerak, who writes on Wired Journalists about his key points in the debate:

  • ‘Let the market handle it’ = do nothing
  • Sponsorship for distribution e.g. people who care about journalism should invest in profitable industries outside of journalism and reinvest the profits in news
  • Someone needs to try something

Other interesting titbits:

  • A whopping 85 per cent against paying for news on a poll during the debate
  • Create an online/offline community around a news brand and that community will pay for news online (well it used to work for paid-for newspapers didn’t it?)
  • Micropayments have potential if they are used without building a wall around newspapers (from @NewspaperWorld)

Any other participants from the debate are welcome to leave comments/links to their blog posts on the debate.

Tweet stream of the #cfund debate: ‘New business models for media’

A Twitter debate kicks off this morning at 10am London time, organised by Alexandre Gamela (@alexgamela), which looks at ‘new business models for media’

“We do not want to discuss just the transition from traditional to online media and their revenue sources, but how money can be made online by independent bloggers and journalists too,” Gamela writes on his blog.

You can follow via CoverItLive, or make use of the Tweet stream below.