Here’s my talk on CUNY’s New Business Models for News at our summit in New York:
And here’s my latest Prezi:
At yesterday’s New Business Models for (Local) News summit at CUNY, I ran what I called a reverse panel with big media folks – NY Times, Washington Post, Gannett, Star-Ledger, Impremedia, Politico – sitting up front but ordered to listen to the wishes and needs of the people in the room. I threatened to cover the big guys’ mouths with duct tape. (A few of them seemed to honestly fear I would do that. I do need to investigate this reputation I’ve garnered.)
The putative war between mainstream media and bloggers has been declared over again and again (myself, I reported a truce three and a half years ago… oh, well). So I won’t act as there aren’t still the lone snipers in the mountains. Bloggers from medium-sized cities had plenty of complaints about the disrespect they see from their local medium-sized media outlets.
But importantly, I did see a shift in the balance of power yesterday. The big media guys on this reverse panel made it crystal clear that they not only respect but need the work of the bloggers/citizens/little-media-guys/whatever you choose to call them. The big guys acknowledged openly that they are shrinking and can no longer even pretend that they can do it all themselves.
For their part, the bloggers also made it clear that they respect and thus want attention – promotion and credit – from the big guys.
We are at various fulcrum points. The big, old media outlets can no longer act as if they have no problems; it’s obvious, they do. The upstarts are beginning to catch a glimmer of critical mass; we see blogs starting up all over and there are lots of new news organizations – most of them not-for-profit – rising in San Diego, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Austin; now they are joined by the for-profit local Politico. Even if you disagree with me that the future of news is entrepreneurial, there’s now no denying there is a future there.
And so the room was filled with people who were, each in his or her own way, building that future and they all recognized that they have to work together to do so. The future of news is also an ecosystem. That’s what became apparent yesterday and that, for me, was the highlight of the event.
We’re doing our post-mortems on the event at CUNY to figure out what to do better next time – and it’s clear there is a need for more of these gatherings here in New York and, we hope, across the U.S. and elsewhere in the world, bringing together builders. We heard a lot from the room about what they want next: More best practices from the kind of real experience that fed our models…. More practical advice for making money…. More education…. I’ll come back with additional thoughts after my thorough-going exhaustion wears off.
My personal thanks to the team at CUNY – led by Peter Hauck, Jennifer McFadden, and Matt Sollars – for doing great work in the models and the event and to the funders who made it possible: The MacArthur Foundation funded the events (and the prior summit led directly to a request to do the work we presented at this one); the Knight Foundation funded the work on our models and presentation of them at the Aspen Institute; the McCormick Foundation is funding ongoing work on new business models; and the Carnegie Corporation is funding work on hyperlocal labs. We’re also grateful to Mignon Media – Nancy Wang and Jeff Mignon – for their incredible work on the models; David Cohn for his tireless efforts helping us organize the events; Borrell Associates for their data and advice; and all the companies and individuals who participated yesterday. And we want to thank Ted Mann of inJersey/Gannett and Jim Schachter of The New York Times and their colleagues for helping to organize the event. Thanks.
I’m putting out a call for local bloggers within traveling distance from New York – and for journalists who’ve left their jobs or are thinking about leaving to start local news blogs – to attend a series of workshops at CUNY on Nov. 11.
The first half of the day, we’ll be presenting and discussing the New Business Models for News Project projections for the local news ecosystem (earlier presented at a Knight Foundation-sponsored event at the Aspen Institute). In the second half of the day, we will have workshops and discussions aimed at improving local sites’ businesses: setting up; serving ads; selling ads; marketing; managing communities; and more – plus presentations by companies working to help these sites, including Outside.in Growthspur, Prism, Google, Addify, PaperG, Spot.us, and others. We will have a mix of bloggers, editors, publishers, entrepreneurs, investors, and companies working in the new local news ecosystem. Gannett New Jersey and The New York Times are contributing to the effort.
Space is limited so right now we’re just putting out the call for bloggers and journalists who have or plan to have local sites to give them priority. A preemptive apology to those for whom we don’t have room; we’ll do our best to accommodate everyone we can. Know also that we’ll be streaming the day. If you’d like an invite, please email David Cohn ([email protected]), who’s kind enough to help organize this, our third CUNY conference on the topic, and who’s a helluva lot better organized than I am. Please make sure to give us a link to your site.
Compare these two columns about Twitter: one by Mike DeArmond, a sports hack in Kansas City, and one by Roger Cohen in The New York Times. They are each frustrated that Twitter doesn’t fit into their set-in-concrete view of what they do and what journalism is – and how others fit in.
The sports guy’s column is, of course, the sillier:
Let’s quit tweet, tweet, tweeting like the birdbrains do. I don’t care what your friend had for lunch. . . .
I really don’t object to the message so much as the medium. . . .
I became a journalist because I love words. The way they can be used to paint an image, to link observation and explanation.
It is why I think it is wonderful to write about how some questions are so rambling that they climb the wall, scoot around a corner, take a stop in the men’s restroom, and only then arrive at their intended point.
You can’t do that with Twitter. You’re limited to 140 characters. And most people waste even those.
Twitter’s pitch is “Share and discover what’s happening right now, anywhere in the world.” That’s what it does — up to a point. It’s many things, including a formidable alerting system for a breaking story; a means of organization; a monitor of global interest levels (Iran trended highest for weeks until Michael Jackson’s death) and of media performance; a bank of essential links; a rich archive; and a community (“Twitter is my best friend.”)
But is it journalism? No. In fact journalism in many ways is the antithesis of the “Here Comes Everybody” — Clay Shirky’s good phrase — deluge of raw material that new social media deliver. For journalism is distillation. It is a choice of material, whether in words or image, made in pursuit of presenting the truest and fairest, most vivid and complete representation of a situation.
It comes into being only through an organizing intelligence, an organizing sensibility. It depends on form, an unfashionable little word, without which significance is lost to chaos. As Aristotle suggested more than two millennia ago, form requires a beginning and middle and end. It demands unity of theme. Journalism cuts through the atwitter state to thematic coherence.
In each case, The Journalist is confronted with something new and if it doesn’t fit in with their world and worldview, they find reasons to reject it, to diminish it, to make it the province of others, not The Journalist – because it’s The Journalist who is empowered to say what journalism is. DeArmond’s going for laughs, Cohen for profundity, but they’re each only showing that they are not imaginative enough to recognize the power that comes from a new tool – no, not the tool but the connection to the people who are using it. I’d never let my students get away with that. I always try to get them to look at a tool and see how it can be used to improve journalism, not just violate its age-old dictates.
In these screeds, we also get a glimpse of these Journalists’ definitions of journalism. I say that news was made into a product by the necessities and limitations of its means of production and distribution in print and broadcast. News is properly a process, I believe. Cohen says, no, it must have a beginning, middle, and end, a narrative he sets, an order he gives, a chaos he rejects. He says elsewhere in his column that presence is necessary to do journalism; he thus says that it takes a reporter to report, that news without the journalist him or herself bearing witness to it is not real news. He puts The Journalist at the center of news. I say the journalist is the servant of news. I tell my students to add journalistic value to what is already being spread – reporting, fact-checking, perspective, answers – but recognize that the news is there with or without them. It is gathered and spread by the people who see it and need it with new tools, like Twitter. Like it or not.
: LATER: But at the same time, here‘s The Times’ David Pogue using Twitter to talk with the public to do his journalism.
We at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism believe that the discussion about the future of journalism — as newspapers and other news organizations find their business rapidly eroding around them — needs to be informed by facts, figures, and business specifics. That is why we created the New Business Models for News Project.
The project is researching best practices in the business of journalism online, gathering new ideas and experiments in revenue for news. We will build complete business models to share with the industry and with the journalists, communities, entrepreneurs, technologists, and investors who will create the future of news.
The project is funded by the Knight and McCormick Foundations. Two earlier conferences leading up to the work of the project were funded by the MacArthur Foundation. The work of the project’s first phase will be presented at the Aspen Institute in August and will be shared, publicly and in progress, on this site.
Our work begins with the assumption that there will be a market demand for quality journalism, watchdogging those in power, and that the market will find a way to meet that demand. The question so many are asking is how. We will attempt to answer that by projecting the future of news in a metropolitan area, concentrating on four perspectives — hyperlocal, the new news organization, publicly supported journalism, and the framework to support this new news economy as a whole.
We will use as our model market a hypothetical top 25 metro area in the U.S. where the sole daily newspaper has ceased publication. In short: We are asking what will fill the void. We posit that no single company or product will do that. Instead, an ecosystem made up of many players operating under many models and motives will emerge. In all cases, we are agnostic as to who owns and operates these entities: legacy or new companies, large or small. In that context, we will examine:
* The optimal hyperlocal (town or neighborhood) blog or site. We will look at how to maximize revenue to such sites, whether they are run by sole proprietors, larger startups, or established media companies. This will include helping sites provide the best and most valuable service to local advertisers; establishing local networks of fellow hyperlocal sites to increase sales and revenue opportunities; larger metro-wide networks; and exploring other revenue opportunities, such as paid models and commerce. We will look at what these sites need to succeed, such as networks, promotion by aggregators, and technology.
* The new news organization. Even after a market loses its daily paper, we believe there is an opportunity for a new news organization to be reconstituted around key journalistic roles serving the metro-area. We will project the scale of such an enterprise: its audience and revenue yielding its resources and functions: reporting, aggregation/curation, perhaps organizing the broader community and its news efforts. How many employees can a profitable, journalism-centered business support and what can and should they do? What is its relationship with other players in the ecosystem?
* Publicly supported journalism. We do not believe that any single savior– foundation, government, device, or massive public contribution — will rescue an existing news organization as it operates today from the crush of the market. But we do believe that publicly supported journalism — that is, from individuals, foundations, and perhaps companies — can play a role in this model city’s news ecosystem. This could take the form of a local Pro Publica or of crowdsourced funding through a platform such as Spot.US or of an expansion of public broadcasting’s role. The key question we will answer is what level of support will likely be available — projecting from current efforts locally — and what those resources could provide.
* The ecosystem’s framework. We will examine the supporting infrastructure this ecosystem will likely need, bringing together independent players to reach critical mass so they can recognize greater market value (in, for example, advertising networks and in mutual promotion) and greater efficiency (in, for example, technology platforms, the ability to create collaborative projects, training in journalism and sales, search-engine optimization…). Once again, we are agnostic to ownership: These functions could come from a single company (which is how we will present the model); they also could be provided by a legacy player or they could be offered by various players. To quote Mark Potts at one of our CUNY conferences, “You may want to be small, but to succeed at being small, you probably have to be part of something big.”
In addition, the project will gather and also propose a catalog of revenue models, working with those who are building systems to support paid content; interviewing local advertisers to learn more about their needs; talking with sites in the U.S. and elsewhere to learn what is working and not working for them; examining the possibilities for more unusual revenue streams such as e-commerce.
After this work is well underway and after the Aspen report in August, we plan to extend the project’s work to examine more business models, such as national and international content exchanges; interest-based sites and networks;
The project is headed at CUNY by Prof. Jeff Jarvis, head of the interactive program. Peter Hauck is project director, working with Jennifer McFadden, business analyst; business researchers Kate Albert, Gary Frangipane, Noah Xifr, Darshan Dedhia, Frank DiBartolo, and Senem Coskun of Baruch’s Lawrence N. Field Center for Entrepreneurship at the Zicklin School of Business; and reporters Matthew Sollars and Damian Ghigliotty, both graduates of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. We are grateful to the Field Center’s Edward Rogoff and Monica Dean for their support. We are also happy to tell you that Jeff Mignon and Nancy Wang of Mignon Media are also working with us.