Reinventing the Newsroom

Friday Reads

Posted in Paid Content, Social Media by reinventingthenewsroom on February 12, 2010

To wrap up a long week, some recent reads that struck a chord with me:

New BBC Global News chief Peter Horrocks had a blunt message for the troops on social media, as reported by Mashable: “This isn’t just a kind of fad… I’m afraid you’re not doing your job if you can’t do those things. It’s not discretionary. … If you don’t like it, if you think that level of change or that different way of working isn’t right for me, then go and do something else, because it’s going to happen.” Many journalists have taken to social media, of course, and I’d hope that most soon realize the value of being part of a community, instead of becoming paralyzed by the potential pitfalls of doing their jobs in semi-public. But Horrocks seems to think — and I agree — that the time is past to consider social media an experiment or a hobby. Increasingly, it’s just the setting for all the familiar human things we do. News organizations have to be a part of that world, and the terms aren’t theirs to set. Rather, they must abide by the rules of the platforms their readers have chosen to make their own.

It’s not a secret that folks who write about the challenges of digital journalism have sharp divisions over the wisdom of various approaches to paid content. For my part, I think readers will pay for good, relevant content — but while I believe that wholeheartedly, I’ll qualify it all to pieces by noting that a) I think current payment schemes are too difficult (Dave McClure recently called this “wallet friction”), b) we still have a glut of commoditized content that drives down the value of journalism, and c) few of today’s digital papers are good enough to charge for.

Journalism Online sits at the crosshairs of that argument, but it seems to me that Gordon Crovitz offers a lot in this Q&A with eMedia Vitals that even paid-content doubters would find wise. Crovitz is practical and not dogmatic about paid content, noting that “we encourage publishers to wade slowly into the paid-content pool – rather than diving straight into the deep end – by beginning with conservative approaches that don’t put many page views at risk. For instance, a publisher employing a metered model might begin by allowing users to see 20 articles for free before being asked to pay. Since few readers would be challenged in that case, the publisher would likely lose very little traffic. By beginning conservatively and steadily testing lower thresholds, the publisher would find the optimal model for ‘freemium’ access.” And his advice is that “publishers must stop thinking of paid content as an either-or proposition. Rather than choosing between completely free access and full pay walls, our technology enables publishers to convert their most engaged readers to paid online subscribers without bothering casual visitors. This hybrid approach is key to finding the optimal mix of traffic and subscription revenue online.”

Finally, two for the clip-and-save files: In this older post that recently crossed my radar, Jay Rosen offers 20 potential ways to subsidize the production of news, starting with government subsidies and acknowledging the likes of live events and premium memberships on the way to ending with subsidies by religious groups. (It’s not so crazy — the Christian Science Monitor is supported this way.) Rosen’s list sidesteps paid content, as that asks readers to pay directly for the cost of content production. Finally, Poynter’s Bill Mitchell has a list of strategies to help news organizations provide value to and create profitable relationships with local advertisers. If I were running a news organization, these two documents would help me fill up my whiteboard and get down to serious, productive discussions.

Happy long weekend, everybody!

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  1. […] part of a vibrant community that already exists. To make sure journalists understand — as the BBC made clear — that talking with readers is now a critical part of their jobs, and that they’re […]

  2. […] think what I’ve seen is a com­mon prob­lem, but things are chang­ing grad­u­ally — in some cases dras­ti­cally. I do hap­pen to like what the BBC’s global news chief wrote to his staff: “This isn’t just […]

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