Tag Archives: business model

Can Spot.Us help save news organizations from advertising dependence?

I consider Spot Us, which launched today, to be one of the more important news experiments out there right now.

For those just hearing of it now: The site, dreamed up and guided by the brilliant David Cohn, shares editorial power with the community. It can begin with a story pitch by a journalist, or a news tip from your average resident. Once a story is pitched, the community votes with its wallet on whether or not to write the story. If you believe the story is worthwhile, you offer a small contribution. Once enough money is raised to hire a reporter, the story is written and offered to whatever media would like to use it.

It allows the community to be the assignment editor. The community directly tells you how much value they place on a story based on their own pocketbook.

Do yourself a favor and read far more about it in far better ways at the Spot.Us site, at the Knight Digital Media Center, at the New York Times, and a billion other places.

What makes the concept so important is that it’s a much-needed juke away from the sacred advertising model, the altar to which newspapers have prayed for so long yet is crumbling before us. This isn’t the kind of cosmetic change we’re used to hearing from news organizations trying to reinvent themselves — More blogs! Users can now comment on stories! — this is a turn-everything-upside-down-and-tear-it-all-apart attempt at finding a new business model. Or at least part of one.

Yes, I must add that I have my skepticisms, the ones that probably have immediately stirred in your head. But here’s the fun part: David is aware of these skepticisms, and as far as I know he embraces them. He knows this is an experiment (funded by a Knight News Challenge grant).

It’s part of the evolutionary process that has mostly passed news organizations by. I’ll be watching closely to see what works and what doesn’t. One way or another, we’re going to know more about our future.

Keeping online journalism away from the Underpant Gnomes

Someone recently asked me if I’ve come across any future business models for journalism that I felt passionate about.

My response: Hmm. Hmmmmmm. Um. Let me think here. Uh…Uh….No, I guess not.

I could talk or blog up a storm about the innovative new content that news organizations need to provide, or the innovative ways to gather that content. I am, after all, a reporter, so it’d make sense for me to offer more insight there. I have no business training.

But that elusive business model remains the elephant in the room. And many a reporter have joined me in putting our heads down, figuring out the content end of the equation, and hoping the folks with business degrees will figure out how we’ll continue to earn paychecks for creating that content.

Basically, Web-savvy reporters right now are the Underpant Gnomes. We’re getting better at gathering the underpants, but we don’t know how to turn them into profit yet. That Web content is providing very little revenue now, and we don’t know how it’ll produce more revenue in the future.

So at what point do those Web-savvy reporters take it upon ourselves to brainstorm some solutions? When do we expand our expertise to the business side?

I say “Now” sounds about right. I don’t have any answers, but I’d love to dedicate some energy toward finding some.

And the journalists who have already immersed themselves in the online culture are the ones best fit to see where it’s going.  The content-providers ought to be readying ourselves for that responsibility.

When the so-called curmudgeons ask why we spend our time on our Web site, I tell them we need to lay the foundation for the future. That even if we’re not making money on it now, we’ll quickly be thrust into deeper irrelevancy if we don’t maintain and even advance our brand as a news organization.

It sure would be nice to say “…and here’s how we’re soon going to make money off of it.” That would be a discussion-ender for just about any so-called curmudgeon.

I might not come up with any answers anytime soon — no one really has, so that’s nothing to be ashamed of — but I’m no longer going to consider it someone else’s problem.