the new newsroom
Lewis Dvorkin, Chief Product Officer at Forbes, has written a series of posts about how they are going about transforming the way Forbes works. They’re well worth reading in order.
In these three posts, for news process junkies like myself, Lewis has provided a fascinating insight into the workings of a major U.S. magazine as it attempts to reinvent itself in the digital era.
For all the hugely impressive innovation, the business model appears to rely solely upon advertising - otherwise known as the great white whale that newspapers have been chasing online - and failing to find - since at least the late nineties. And here we are, well over a decade later, and the online advertising model still stubbornly remains unproven.
I can’t help but snigger a little. From a completely unscientific survey, it appears to me that it’s individuals, going it alone, away from the media dinosaurs, or sometimes in partnership with them, who are the only ones making the net work for them.
The only comparison I want to make between my ‘newsroom model’ and the one of Forbes relates to income. My model makes no mention of it. For a living, I need a more unconventional business model and it works, at least for now.
To a freelancer like myself, it’s quite simple. Journalism doesn’t pay enough. I need other income streams.
I imagine it’s the same for newspapers and magazines, like Forbes, but they suffer an “imagination deficit”. Those are not my words, but the words of Raju Narisetti, the Managing Editor of the Washington Post, in an excellent article, also in Forbes.
Listen carefully between each sentence - that’s the sound of Raju plucking hairs from his head as he struggles to figure out just what the hell he’s going to do to turn a crate like The Post around,
…The Post, like a few large U.S. newspapers, generates millions in online revenue from advertising. But we also generate tens of millions more from print advertising and circulation. The much anticipated intersection of rising digital revenues and falling print revenues has already turned into a mirage, leaving most of us with a cost structure way out of sync with today’s business reality. What is left is a relentless pressure to cut back on the single most expensive cost centre at media companies: The content creation engine, a.k.a., our newsroom…
…While our colleagues on the business side deserve credit for pushing newsrooms to become more nimble in recent years, they have also consistently failed to imagine and then incubate a Craigslist, a Groupon, a Monster. com, let alone a Google or a Facebook. Nor are they any closer today than they were last year in fixing the broken business model of quality journalism. So, while there is still room to cut costs and become more efficient, unless the revenue spigot opens up, the business model will remain broken and the decline of major news brands will only accelerate…
…I, for one, think that the golden age of targeted digital advertising is yet to come. Do we really want to trade that larger opportunity for the much smaller and unreliable pursuit of consumer dollars? I also wonder if we aren’t better off redeploying our newsroom resources to create new revenue streams and more engaging digital platforms than trying to make the traditional Web experience better and charge for it. And, I think we ought to create a drawbridge around our content—not necessarily for readers but for the aggregators. A business model that insists a Yahoo or a Huffington Post uses your content through some form of syndication, giving them trusted content and giving big media an opportunity to share the upside of their more engaging offerings…
…Free is indeed very expensive. But, what the prolonged and knee-jerk debate about free vs. paid inside our news organizations shows is that we still have what led us here in the first place: An imagination deficit. Rather than apply an ‘all or nothing’ approach focused, perhaps wrongly, on just our Web sites, we should be willing to make creative bets on our business model… link