Mar 14, 2008

The news business (and the business of self-promotion)

Long before the Singleton strip mining got underway last week, getting my little blog some attention, I've been trying to wrap my mind around the seemingly intractable problem of saving the newspaper business.

The phrase "newspaper business" captures the conflict we face. Some see the newspaper as a business that creates a product for sale. Others see the newspaper as a civic function that relies on the profits taken from an ancillary business (ads). As revenues dip and further layoffs loom, the former view has subsumed the latter one.

Which is why I've argued that we should stop looking at the newspaper as a single entity that needs saving and instead look at its parts. What does a newsroom need to do to survive? What ancillary businesses should a newsroom associate itself with to support its mission?

Chris O'Brien of the Mercury News has a column related to this at MediaShift Idea Lab. Here's a portion of that:

I see tremendous energy going in to breaking new ground in gathering news, telling stories, and creating community. What I don't see is an equivalent amount of innovation occurring around the business models that will support journalism going forward. What I tend to see, over and over, is people experimenting wildly on the content side, and then falling back on the same old business model: Selling ads.

This model is dying.

I'm not sure the model is dying, but I am sure the model needs to change.

Which leads me to my other purpose today: self-promotion.

In case anyone is interested, I've written about turning local news outlets into aggregators of community journalism here, here and here. I've written about the systemic problems newspapers face here, and the corporatizing of the newsroom here. I railed against convergence theory here. I've ranted about the bastards here and here, and I've given a more reasoned argument here.

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