As much fun as it is for me to make clever lists and shout from the hilltops about what I think your news organization should be doing, how they should be doing it, and why they should be doing it, no matter what argument I (or anyone else) has in favor of a certain technology or against a certain methodology, the broken business model of newspapers remains the giant elephant in the room.
Let’s start with a few different angles on the state of the news business. I’m not saying that all of these are absolute truths, but I am saying that all of these angles lead to the same conclusion.
- Print circulation is dropping, online readership is climbing. We don’t yet know how best to turn online eyeballs into income.
- Print advertising revenue is falling, online ad revenue is climbing, but the former is happening at a much faster pace than the latter. We don’t yet know how best to turn online eyeballs (or community, or participation, for that matter) into income.
- Regardless of what else we change about our print edition, or how we present information online, or how we reorganize our newsrooms, funding investigative and enterprise reporting must be part of the core mission of the industry.
- The Web has disrupted the traditional relationships between print advertisers and their customers (and between print advertisers and newspapers) more than it has disrupted traditional relationships based on print newspaper content. We need to find new ways to connect advertisers to consumers in a way that leads to profits for our organizations.
If you accept any of those points as a given, you come to the natural conclusion that the problem of working out new business models for news organizations needs our attention, and not just as an aside.
An Aside: I’m going to assume that it’s necessary for major metro newspapers to survive and thrive as news producers. I don’t always believe that’s true, frankly, and there are any number of organizations getting started online, including folks doing critical investigative reporting, that could be part of the proof that this society has outgrown its need for newspapers as the “lifeblood of our democracy.” That said, again, I’m going to assume — for now — that we need to save newspapers.
All this is just a fancy way to lay out a little plan I’ve been thinking about lately:
I’m not going to write any manifestology here for a while. Instead, starting with my next post, I’ll explore some online news business model questions — and opportunities — for, say, ten posts or until I get bored with it.
Things I might write about:
- News organizations as Web development shops
- Building a better business directory
- Relevant text link ads based on that better business directory
- How to hire and train advertising salespeople who can produce content
- Basic, incremental changes you can make today to start bringing in extra pennies
Please do add your suggestions in the comments, or use the Skribit suggestion box in the sidebar of my blog to vote on these first five bullet points.