A new business for news

“2019 will be another terrible year for the business of news, and journalists will have to face the harsh reality that no one will come to their rescue — not benign billionaires, not platform companies, and not policymakers.”

I’ve written my 2019 prediction for the Nieman Lab at Harvard, focused on the urgent need for building a new business for news, the need for journalists to lead in that process, and the need to recognize that doing so will be a long, hard slog (and that many will fail along the way).

A historical analogy I offer is the time it took to build the mass business of paid print newspapers that is now in terminal decline. As we track the development of new digital pay models for news month by month and year by year, with the fits and stats, break-out success stories few saw coming (here’s looking at you, MediaPart), set-backs, and occasional disappointments (so long, The Sun paywall), we sometimes forget how long it took to build the old models.

Consider the evolution of paid printed newspaper circulation relative to population in the United States — it took 50+ years to build the mass circulation that peaked in the middle of the 20th century (circulation that has been in non-stop decline since).

money

As I write in the Nieman piece, “mass paid print circulation thus did not appear overnight, but took decades of hard work and constant editorial, commercial, and technological innovation.”

It may well take as long to develop new business models as it took to develop the old ones. Doing so is one of the most important and urgent challenges facing journalism, and I hope journalists will lead in the attempts to do so. “No one cares more, no one has more at stake, and no one is better positioned to build new businesses around journalistic values, editorial independence, and the timeless aspiration to seek truth and report it.”

The full text of my Nieman piece is here.

 

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