Thursday, November 20, 2008

The end of the monolithic news organization

I've been wondering, in the context of the great search for new business models for news, whether the following could work as model for the creation, distribution and consumption of news content, as a complete replacement for today's vertically integrated news organizations:
  • A network of completely independent journalists who gather news and post their news content on blogs
  • A variety of aggregators who collect, organize and promote this output—locally, regionally, nationally, and around various niche interests
  • A universe of news consumers access news, directly from the blogs of the independents as well as from the aggregators; and share, digest and repurpose news in social networks.
  • Other enterprises provide related services such as the aggregation and organization of raw data (this might be Google) and the management of a set of localpedias and nichepedias (this could be Wikipedia operating at a more granular level than it does today)
Essentially, this model would expand to a societal level the Intellipedia model I described recently—not within a single organization but as a set of networked individuals and entities. The reporter becomes an entrepreneur, the editor becomes an aggregator and wiki moderator, the news librarian becomes a database vendor, the readership becomes a networked community, the publisher manages the flow of advertising revenue among all of them.

So where's the "monetization" part of this business model? Here are some possible components:
  • Blogs for independent journalists: Anil Dash of Six Apart just created the TypePad Journalist Bailout Program, intending to help out a few friends but ending up with a wave of interest. Participants get, Anil writes: "a TypePad blog, a place in our Six Apart Media advertising program, promotion on, and a healthy dose of our expertise and insights into helping publishers and bloggers succeed online."
  • Resources like David Cohn's brilliant startup, Spot.Us, allowing crowdfunding as one of the ways journalists get paid.
  • Tools such as Attributor to help track use of content by aggregators and flow audience and advertising share back to the originators.
  • A system like the one envisioned by the Information Valet Project to regulate the allocation of advertising and transactional revenue across all components of the network, including, potentially, news consumers themselves.
And, how do we get from here to there? Well, if the components of our existing news network, like newspapers, continue to self-destruct, we may well get there by default, with the survivors self-organizing themselves in this fashion. And newspaper organizations that get serious about reinventing themselves for the digital future might well want to look at models that involve networking of independent entrepreneurial components rather than monolithic enterprises.


mj said...

While I do think newspapers will continue (and shrink) do to its legacy readers, I think you've got a clear-eyed view of the future of journalism. The money remains elusive, but possible.

MrEdd said...

This article is sort of half-assed.

It completely leaves out a major factor. Perhaps it was too painful for Martin to put it up - as there is no counter for it and it is depressing for someone trying to make a living from writing.

This is it: Some very good freewriting on news, consumer products, finance and what have you is available from people who have other jobs. They aren't asking to be paid a cent.

Similarly some very good news aggregation now goes on - on the same basis.

Paid media has to compete with an adroit and well written free media.

The high cost of printing and distributing gave big media a long run. They once provided a needed service. But now they are as needed as town livery stables.

Martin Langeveld said...

Sure, MrEdd, there's a lot of free content out there, but in the network I'm hypothesizing, there are more tools for content creators to get paid, via Spot.Us, InformationValet, and tools that allow revenue sharing back to the originator no matter where the content flows. If that mechanism existed, aggregators should be willing to share revenue for content that generates high clickthroughs.

MrEdd said...

Martin, If I get to pick between free content that is decent, over content I have to pay for - even if it has a lot of bells and whistles - I pick the free content.

You can of course, have hybrids. I believe that the small form factor machine site Pocketables
is reader written, but with a couple editors paid for through advertising.