Last Monday I went to the Future of News meetup, West Midlands branch, organized by Philip John. It was a fun bit, and a chance to meet new people. I’m all for discussing and debating, come up with new ideas and go a bit crazy with them, or else it will be just like homework. Fortunately we were a relaxed group, and not even the classroom environment (gently provided by BCU) got in the way. Being too serious about anything is what keeps some good ideas in the dark, especially when we all have the same basic perspective on the subject.
Philip John posted a description of the meetup, and i won’t repeat it here, so go there and read it. Except for this:
Then, without further ado, we split into three separate groups for a challenge. The brief that I gave to the groups was this; they are managing a start-up news operation with six month’s worth of funding. Their funders will not back them again after the six months is up so they need to find a viable business model within that timeframe. The funding will get them an office with all the necessities, two people (these could be journalists, or not) and kit (laptops, smartphones) for 3 people (i.e. you and your staff of two). There were no limits on what kind of news operation, what area (geographic or otherwise) to report or anything else – it was a very open brief.
The second group seemed to be obsessed with porn, interestingly, though there were some good suggestions. They came up with News Butler, a tailored news service which will take your preferences and then phone you each day to tell you the news that’s important to you. We were promised that Jon Hickman would be the guy on the other end of the phone – watch this space. There was also the news booth where you go and submit your own news. The most serious suggestion though, and one that really caught my attention was event journalism – providing reporting services for events. It was then that I filled everyone in on the last UK Future of News Group meetup where Not On The Wires launched their service after covering the G20 and Berlin Project.
I have to clarify one thing, since this was my group: we weren’t obsessed with porn, it just came up, and the group is not to blame, but me. The rest were respectable, wholesome, decent people, (well, most of them). Since I find that a bit boring I tend to stray a bit and, besides, news and porn are not that different:
The news business isn’t the only industry being upended by aggregators and amateurs online. Pornographers are suffering too — and newspapers could learn a thing or two from them. Here’s why:
Amateur content and “tube sites” (that’s industry-speak for free porn portals) have been eroding revenues in the porn industry, according to a story from Monday’s Los Angeles Times. But at least one porn company is embracing something every online news editor has grappled with quite a bit: Aggregation.
Frustratingly for porn producers and distributors in the Valley, none of these [aggregation] sites appears to be making much money. Suzann Knudsen, a marketing director for PornoTube, said the site’s parent, Adult Entertainment Broadcast Network, uses it to attract customers for paid video on demand.
“PornoTube isn’t a piggy bank,” she said. “Its true value is in traffic.”
in What Online Porn Can Teach Journalism (and Vice Versa), The Atlantic, Aug 13 2009
Yes, they both have similar problems, being the rise of the amateurs (so to speak…) the biggest one. Since news people take themselves too seriously, they usually forget to think out of the box. But that’s alright, more fun for me. Anyway, and so you know that the group had good ideas, me, Caroline Beavon and Dan Davies – who were also in the group – recorded a small podcast for the Online Journalism module about business models, that has most of the ideas we discussed in between the porn conversation.
The main idea is that there is not a single business model, but different ways to generate revenue. Small structures must find any means in their reach to add value to their content so that it can be bought by users or major news outlets, and provide services useful for their local markets. If you have a news website you have copy and design expertise, that can be financially more accessible for local businesses than the average offer available in the market. I’ve gone through this in my other blog, there are lots of things a local news website can do to make money. And the news is not the biggest part of it, and it never was, most of the time.
Here’s the audio:
Other accounts on the meetup: