Tag Archives: Underpant Gnomes

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.