“Journalism, the practice, is not “the media,” although for many years most of the journalism that got done was done inside the media industry. Now that industry is in trouble, but not because people no longer want to be informed or entertained (they still do). Rather, the social pattern that sustained the media industry has been disrupted by technology (see Briefing)”
Read more here.
Studio 20 Professor Jay Rosen spoke at a conference at Yale this weekend. The experience inspired this post:
I was asked to speak recently at a conference organized by Yale University with the title “Journalism & The New Media Ecology: Who Will Pay The Messenger?” This irritated me. The question should have been “who will subsidize news production?” because news production has always been subsidized by someone or something. Very rarely have users paid directly the costs of editorial production.
So here’s my list of known sources of subsidy, with examples to illustrate each. What I have left out please put in the comments and I will edit the list. If you have a link that provides an example, that would help a lot.
2. Rate-payers can subsidize, a solution that has to be enforced by government. As with the BBC license fee, or proposals to require Internet Service Providers to support journalism through a surcharge.
3. Political interests can subsidize the press, as with the party press in 19th century America or labor’s willingness to fund some new media operations today.
5. Rich egoists will sometimes subsidize, as with Mort Zuckerman’s ownership of The Atlantic magazine from 1980 to 1999.
6. Advertisers are of course the most common subsidizers, though as Clay Shirky says, Best Buy never signed up to fund the Baghdad bureau. They just didn’t have a choice.
7. Entertainment and the revenues it produces can subsidize news production, as with the early days of network television, when the news divisions lost money. Good old fashioned sensationalism also fits under this heading.
8. Soft news can subsidize the hard, as with travel and food sections that pay for other kinds of coverage. (A point suggested by Richard Gingras of Salon.)
9. Unrelated businesses are sometimes a sources of subsidy, as with the Washington Post Company’s ownership of the highly profitable Stanley Kaplan.
10. Then there’s logically-related businesses, as with Bloomberg L.P. and Thomson Reuters, both of which make big money providing data to businesses and then subsidize news production (mostly business news) from that. (More on selling data.) See also USA Today’s Buzz Bureau. Another example would be selling web services—setting up a website or social media tools—to the people formerly known as the advertisers. (One example, in pdf form.)
11. Clever spin-offs can subsidize editorial costs, as with Techdirt’s Insight Community, basically a focus group business featuring the highly informed community that gathers at Techdirt. At the level of the stand alone journalist, this becomes: “Some people who blog make money because they blog,” as against revenue from the blog itself.
12. Educational institutions—especially university-based journalism schools—can be the source of subsidy, as with the partnership between Northeastern University’s journalism program and the Boston Globe.
13. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are increasingly likely to sponsor or support journalistic work, often in partnership with traditional news producers.
14. High earning spouses sometimes subsidize stand alone journalists with start-up sites.
15. Live performances featuring editorial talent, as with magazine conferences or this event: “KCRW & NPR Present ‘Planet Money — Live!’ at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica.”
16. E-commerce, also known as selling stuff, sometimes works, as with Techdirt’s “Connect with Fans and give them a reason to buy” program.
17. The most passionate users (those who can afford it) will sometimes subsidize the production of news available to all through small donations, as with public radio’s membership model in the U.S., or Firedoglake at the Libby Trial, or the community-funding platform spot.us and its garbage patch story.
Subsidy ideas in development:
A possible source of subsidy is what’s known as “lead generation.” It means providing good information to businesses on who is exceptionally likely to buy. I’m still trying to determine if this is actually subsidizing news production anywhere yet.
Scott Karp of publish2.com writes of the possibility of high value advertising that would represent a conceptual break with the whole display ad regime. If such a system existed it would be added to my list as a different type of subsidy. The idea is to create advertising of such quality and informational value to users that it enhances the value of high-end editorial production.
Currently in development are voluntary micropayment systems, which would represent a new type of subsidy. No one knows if they’ll be successful, of course. Two to watch are Emanci-pay (“a choosing system… readers, listeners and viewers can easily choose to pay whatever they like, whenever they like, for the media goods they use”) and Kachingle (“crowdfunding sites you love.”)
Also in the concept phase is Lyn Headley’s restrospective funding model for news. “A retrospective news medium is an organization that bestows a continuing stream of awards, each with a monetary component, on the producers of the best pieces of journalism it finds, shortly after each piece is published.”
Notes: I do not talk about subscriptions or paywalls in this post, because that is not a subsidy system: that’s direct payment for editorial goods.
Kevin Coates in the comments says: “The BBC has a profit-making arm which among other things, commercializes rate-payer funded content in other geographic markets. Profits go back to the BBC to supplement the rate-payer funds. Similar to your #7, but revenue does not just come from entertainment (e.g, if you view the BBC news website in the US, you see ads; in the UK, you don’t.)
Worth mentioning is the newsroom-as-cafe concept, which appears to be succeeding in the Czech Republic. Here, the idea is to take a business that already works—the bustling cafe—and turn it into a news gathering operation.
Studio 20 Professor Jason Samuels’ latest work for BET premiers at 10pm on Sunday. Samuels is the senior series producer of “Heart of the City”, a documentary show that concentrates on current issues in various African-American communities. Sunday’s episode, “Dying to Eat in Jackson” will take viewers straight to the capital of the most obese state in the country, Jackson, Mississippi to examine why African-Americans are disproportionally more obese than other Americans.
By Rosanna Ryan
Academic and blogger Jay Rosen has some harsh words for journalists who are sceptical about social media: if you are not interested in democracy, you should look for a new job.
From his hometown of New York, Rosen used live video chat to address an audience of professional and amateur media producers at the Media140 conference in Sydney.
“If you don’t have a democratic heart, you don’t belong in journalism in the first place,” he said.
He says journalists should stop expecting “open” platforms like blogging and Twitter to behave like traditional production systems.
Instead, he emphasised the value of listening to the public and being transparent about journalistic processes.
“Things are not necessarily checked or made perfect before they are published,” he said.
“They are corrected, they are refined, they are edited and they are checked after publication.
“People coming from closed systems see chaos, but they need to see that open systems work differently.”
Earlier Media140 sessions had discussed claims that journalism was “dead”, but Rosen said he saw things differently.
“If [journalists] detach what they do from the medium, from the system it runs on, they can see that having more participants creates a better news system,” he said.
News Limited’s ‘cool new toy’
Rosen also weighed into the simmering debate about whether mainstream news providers should charge for content, saying that building “paywalls” would be akin to “unbuilding the web”.
He described the difficulty of transferring the mass media’s advertising models online. Targeted ads like those served to Google users were eliminating inefficiencies and driving the price of advertising down, he said.
On Thursday, columnist Caroline Overington from The Australian revealed News Limited’s hopes that a “cool new toy” would allow her employer to make money amid new media’s challenges to their economic model.
“What is it, I wonder?” journalist Margaret Simons asked on her blog.
“Some kind of deal with Apple, soon to release its new electronic reader? A competing product? Very intriguing.”
But Rosen suggested putting content behind paywalls would be a fruitless endeavour.
He said it would make the content more difficult to find and would not show up easily in searches, leaving journalists out of the conversations on social media platforms.
The Media140 conference is being held at ABC headquarters in Ultimo, Sydney.
Follow the #media140 tag for updates, or watch the live stream.
Notes from Jay Rosen’s talk were also published online.