Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Thursday, April 28, 2005
 
The New Media Business

Matt Thompson, Snarkmarket blogger and Fresno Bee reporter, has a firm grounding in "old" journalism and big visions for new media. Take a look at his latest rant-discussion:

Matt is impatient that media heavy-weights Jay Rosen and Tim Porter are still talking about the decline of newspapers. Matt writes, "But it all just feels so twelve years ago. When we start talking around in circles like this, I get impatient about the snail’s pace of this alleged revolution. The brashness of youth, I guess." Instead of mourning the old, Matt wants (and a lot of other people want) a discussion of how to make the new happen better and faster. Jay Rosen shows up: "Is it funny? Yeah, it's funny. And you're entitled to jeer at [traditional news providers] for being unbelievably thick, complacent and slow." But he says, as a journalism professor, it's still his problem. Matt acknowledges that at some level it's his problem too--after all, he is a newspaper reporter, and the beaten-up Central Valley needs old-fashioned gritty journalism. But, wait, Matt says:
Here's what preceded my rant. I spent yesterday afternoon in communication with a vaunted citizen journalist -- a young woman who covers local arts and entertainment for her own Web site. Having no formal journalism training or experience, in a very short time, she and her staff of one have created a site that I'd argue is the most vital reflection of her community. Right now, the site is essentially her sole occupation. But she doesn't know how much longer she can keep it up.How do we rescue *that*, Jay? The newspaper is surviving, for the moment. But how do we keep *her* around? (Emphasis mine.)

Jarah, the citizen journalist in question and creator of the fabulous site FamousFresno.com, chimes in with this:
One real issue is how to support these newish forms of media. The business model has lagged the technology, and there's lots of room there for clever ideas, especially in local advertising (to help out those "citizen journalists" everyone is so fond of). And that's a big push for newspapers- when not only are their revenues shrinking, but others are growing. Perhaps that speaks to your question, Matt. Maybe one day you won't have to work at a MSM company to be a respected journalist *and* make a living. (Emphases mine.)
Robin Sloan throws in some cheers and an exhortation to just do it, and Matt finishes (for now) with this: "I come not to bury the newspaper, but to praise Jarah. "

The business model is the issue I'd like to see more discussion of. In the old days journalists didn't have to worry about these things to some extent. Publishers took care of the business and hired editors, and the editors hired journalists. Freelancers have always had be more business saavy, but freelancers who self-publish are playing a new ball game with equipment that is still being invented on a field that's still being built. The Holy Grail of truly indepedant media revolves around economic independance--but it's probably going to have to be earned a very hard way.

We already know that getting people to pay for content directly doesn't work too well, though I'm hoping ideas like Scott McCloud's MicroPayments and BitPass will still have a fighting chance. Have a pledge-drive like PBS has worked for All-Stars like Josh Marshall. A couple of years ago at a bar with Nick Denton, Jeff Jarvis and Apartment Therapy's Ryan Oliver, Google's Adsense seemed like it might be the Holy Grail: instead of an impressionable and pressurable ad executive choosing ads for you, an impartial machine chooses them. In retrospect AdSensehas great potential to work as the fabled "chinese wall" but it's just not an infusion of capital for a start-up site. There's the highly unreliable but potentially lucrative Amazon Associates program. Getting your content filtered by the wider community and then, if it passes, picked up for licensing by a daring media company like Robin Sloan's Current.tv is another possibility. Licensing spin-offs off your content is a model that's actually worked for some of the most vital new independant art, webcomics: see Achewood and Questionable Content, just two examples of enterprises I might actually buy T-shirts from. Josh Marshall and Atrios also sell gear. FresnoFamous seems to be going through the hard, old-fashioned work of rounding up relevant local advertisers and getting them on the bandwagon, just like the photocopied zines of yore.

What else? What else is there? Surely people can think out of the box and dream up something new. What else?
 


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Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

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Blogs I Read (Or Try To)
113th Street
american footprints(Nadezhda & Praktike)
ANNA's Diary
Apartment Therapy
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Dave Barry
The Bellman
Mine's On The 45 (Brimful)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
ChennaiCentral
ClimateBoy
Combing the Sphere
Crooked Timber
Daily Dose of Imagery
The Daily Rhino (Bong Breaker)
Dark Days Ahead
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Atanu Dey on India's Development (Deeshaa)
Daniel Drezner
Ennis
Ephemera
Cyrus Farivar
Finding My Voice
Forsv
Neil Gaiman
Ganesh Blog
Geeky Chic 2.0 (Echan)
Geomblog
Green Ink!
Heliolith
Alexandra Huddleston
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Indeterminacy
India Uncut
InSpiteOfEverything
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter et al
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Jesus Politics
John and Belle Have a Blog
Mark A. R. Kleiman
KnowProse (Taran Rampersad)
1Locana
Maenad (Nori Heikkinen)
Scott McCloud
Mind Without Borders
Electrolite: Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Corey Pein
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Kevin G. Powell
QuakeHelp (South Asian Quake)
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
Reneebop
Rhinocrisy
Scott Rosenberg(Salon.com)
Rox Populi
Felix(&Rhian)Salmon
samVaad
Nick Schager
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Sepia Mutiny
Amardeep Singh
Snarkmarket (Robin Sloan & Matt Thompson)
South-East Asian Earthquake and Tsunami Blog
SreeTips: New To Sree
Steprous (Bear)
Robert Stribley
Subjunctive.net:klog
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
Tech Policy
TiffinBox
A Tiny Revolution
To The Teeth
TreeHugger
Unfogged
VatulBlog
Venk@
Manish Vij
Vinod's Blog
War and Piece
Nollind Whachell
Wonkette
WorldChanging
Matthew Yglesias:Old
Yglesias:Tpmcafe
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham
Ethan Zuckerman
Zwichenzug



Some Categories

Blogs focusing on policy, politics, and national security:
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Daniel Drezner
Eschaton(Atrios)
Green Ink!
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Informed Comment: Juan Cole
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Irregular Analyses
Jesus Politics
Mark A. R. Kleiman
Liberals Against Terrorism(Nadezhda & Praktike)
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
War and Piece
Wonkette
Yglesias:Tpmcafe

Photo Blogs
Daily Dose of Imagery
Ephemera
Alexandra Huddleston
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
TiffinBox

Columbia Journalism Folks
Apartment Therapy
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
Ranajit Dam
Cyrus Farivar
Alexandra Huddleston
InSpiteOfEverything
Corey Pein
Nick Schager
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham

Literature, Fiction and Entertainment
Dave Barry
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Electrolite: Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Scott McCloud


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