News for Digital Journalists

Posts tagged with: Business Models

May 03, 2010

AP’s News Registry: Controversial content monitoring/distribution system to launch July 14

On April 29, the Associated Press announced several new digital news initiatives—including that its controversial News Registry system will launch July 14.

When AP first announced its News Registry plan last July, it attracted ample concern, skepticism, and scorn…

Critics complained that AP’s plan was heavy handed, confusing, and technically misguided. Supporters said the Registry would simply be good business, and they noted AP’s claims that the Registry is not intended to block fair use. (See this July 2009 CJR post, and read the comments, to get a range of views on the fair use issue.)

The strong backlash was fueled by AP CEO Tom Curley’s July 2009 statement to The New York Times that the Registry would catch and regulate AP content use as minor as a headline and a link to an article: “If someone can build multibillion-dollar businesses out of keywords, we can build multihundred-million businesses out of headlines, and we’re going to do that.”

AP says that “200 member newspapers have become part of the Registry’s beta test. That number is expected to reach 600 by the Registry’s July 14 production launch, when the platform will be opened to additional members and publishers.”

Also, the US Justice Dept. recently decided that the News Registry does not pose antitrust problems.

AP’s latest announcement includes no details of how the News Registry will function. However, last August Poynter’s Megan Taylor offered a good roundup of how AP’s News Registry is supposed to work. It’s based on microformat technology—a powerful semantic web tool that can aid discovery of relevant content, but that is also technologically simple to subvert.

AP is promoting the News Registry as a way for member papers to increase paid online distribution of their content. In the AP release, Curley is quoted as saying, “Every content creator who uses the Registry will be able to set the rights for the use of that content, so that it can be copied legally or used in new products that the industry or others create with proper permission and compensation.”

It’ll be interesting to see what rights the Registry allows for excerpting AP headlines or other content—and whether participating publishers will be free to specify usage rights for their content that are less restrictive than AP’s defaults.

July 06, 2010

News (and Newsrooms) in the Networking Age

If you’re trying to wrap your head around the transformation of the media industry, a good place to start might be the idea of “perestroika”—the old Soviet term that described the dramatic restructuring of its most mature institutions. That, in fact, is the theme for an industry gathering in Philadelphia later this month that explores the transformation of computing, communications, business, and society in the Network Age, while asking the question: After everything is connected, “what’s next?”

The July 29-30 Supernova forum, co-hosted by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, is produced by Kevin Werbach, a former FCC technology official and organizer of the PC Forum with Esther Dyson. Technologists, entrepreneurs, business executives, investors, and policymakers will come together to discuss three overarching themes.—evolving digital infrastructure and platforms, models for networked business innovation, and transforming or replacing established institutions.

Tech policy forum participants include White House official Beth Noveck, Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen, Google’s Washington counsel Richard Whitt and BuzzMachine’s Jeff Jarvis. And other participants will also lead discussion at afternoon unconferences and “challenge sessions.”

Check out the agenda and register here.

If, on the other hand, you’re just trying to figure out the restructuring of your own newsroom, the gathering for you might be the International Newsroom Summit in London, Sept. 8-9.

Speakers and attendees include many European newspaper publishers, but Editor & Publisher reports The New York Time’s Arthur Sulzberger Jr., will be on the program, along with top Washington Post newsroom exec Raju Narisetti.

The key question: what does the new generation newsroom look like, and how does it operate? Discussions are around topics like newsroom synergies, smartphone publishing, innovative storytelling and paid content.  Register here.

July 27, 2010

Study: Internet Users Won’t Pay for Free Services Like Twitter

Amid debate about news paywalls, a bit of not-so-good news for those hoping to get consumers to pony up. A new study shows that despite the enormous popularity of Internet services like Twitter, no one seems actually willing to pay for them.

The annual Digital Future report just out from USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism found, for instance, that while 49 percent of Internet users use free microblogging tools like Twitter, not one of those surveyed said they’d be willing to pay for them.

Jeffrey Cole, director of the school’s Center for the Digital Future, which has been conducting the study since 2000, noted that “Twitter has no plans to charge its users, but this result illustrates, beyond any doubt, the tremendous problem of transforming free users into paying users.”

And it’s not like users see online advertising as a good alternative for funding the media they use. The study found half never click on web advertising, and 70 percent found it “annoying.” In the end, though, 55 percent would rather see online advertising than pay for content.  Added Cole: “Consumers really want free content without advertising, but ultimately they understand that content has to be paid for - one way or another.”

The study also showed ever-greater use of online services paired with a continued decline in use of print newspapers, along with a rising perception that online information is unreliable. See highlights of the report (PDF).

July 30, 2010

Report: Successful News Startups Need Diverse Revenue Streams, Value Propositions

What’s the key to survival for nontraditional news startups? Diversity - at least in terms of varied revenue streams and ways to create journalistic and community value.

That’s one core precept identified this spring at a roundtable of a dozen innovative news startups and now detailed in a new report, “Seeking Sustainability: A Nonprofit News Roundtable.” The nonprofit startups included California Watch, The Huffington Post Investigative Fund, Chicago News Cooperative, Voice of San Diego, The Texas Tribune and others. They were brought together in April by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Among other central lessons the startups shared:

  * Leadership, business model and visibility were more important to developing successful community and media partnerships than was initial financial backing.
  * Traditional media partners, particularly public media, can be very helpful for distributing content and providing organizational and financial support.
  * Memberships can be an effective source of revenue - incentives and benefits may be a further boost.
  * Existing technology is a better bet than custom tools, especially for startups with limited tech staffing and budget.

For more on the report, visit a July 27 post in KnightBlog, or go directly to the pdf of the 82-page report, which also includes nearly a dozen videos from the roundtable discussion.

August 03, 2010 Sponsored survey on objectivity in journalism

Do you think objectivity is crucial to journalism? Or is transparency the new objectivity? The journalism crowdfunding service has launched another sponsored survey exploring ideas and attitudes about objectivity in journalism.

Currently, Clay Shirky (author of Cognitive Surplus and other books about the net) is sponsoring this survey. Questions include: “Is objectivity in journalism even possible?” And: “Is striving for objectivity in journalism a good thing?”...

In these surveys, an organization or brand donates $5 to a story pitch designated by each user who takes a 1-minute survey.

To take this survey, select an open story pitch you’d like to fund. Then click “Earn Credits” at the top of the right-hand sidebar. You’ll be asked to register or log in to, and then you can take the survey.

According to founder David Cohn, “Shirky was given the opportunity to direct funds from a foundation to the nonprofit of his choice. We are truly humbled that he chose Spot.Us. The answers to this survey will be made public but anonymous.”

These sponsored surveys (which Cohn calls community-focused sponsorships) are a unique business-model experiment to help organizations connect with the public about issues—while financially supporting journalism—in a way that’s quite different from traditional advertising or marketing.

Cohn will be developing this model further in his upcoming Reynolds Journalism Institute fellowship. This concept also was deemed a “notable entry” in this year’s Knight-Batten awards.

ALSO: goes national. In his July 27 PBS Mediashift post, Cohn explained the site’s recent shift from a regional to a national focus.

“It makes little sense for me to tell a good pitch from Illinois or Texas that they can’t put their pitch up until we find a handful of other pitches in their region,” wrote Cohn. “So, as of last week, the subdomains at Spot.Us have been removed. Trying to convince people in a specific region to use the site—while stopping others from using it because they aren’t in the right region—is not the best use of our time or energy.” was launched with a 2008 Knight News Challenge grant.

August 04, 2010

Investigate West’s first year: Progress and evolution

It’s been a little over a year since the nonprofit news startup Investigate West launched, and in that time it’s made significant progress—as well as some significant changes .

Here are some of this venture’s highlights so far…

I-West’s executive editor and co-founder Rita Hibbard is an alum of [email protected]’s first news entrepreneurship bootcamp in 2009, and this year she’s a fellow with [email protected]’s Leadership Institute. (Both of these programs are funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.) On YouTube, she offered her vision and advice for launching a nonprofit news site.

According to Columbia Journalism Review, I-West’s core staff worked for “sweat equity” from July 2009 until June 2010, when they began paying themselves.

When the site launched, blogging was a key vehicle for its content. But over the past year, the staff is blogging less and focusing more on big features.

So far I-West has published three major investigative features, with paid distribution through regional and national news organizations (print and broadcast).

I-West’s annual budget is about $225,000 (80% from foundations, 20% from paid content and individual donors). CJR noted that this is “a far cry from the $1.35 million budget the team projected when it launched a year ago. Hibbard explained that that forecast was based the expectation of hiring a larger staff, which no longer seems practical.”

Aside from producing traditional journalistic stories, I-West staff is writing at least one white paper, paid for by a Russell Family Foundation grant. Is this a conflict of interest? I-West cofounder Robert McClure told CJR: “We’re providing [the foundation] with information that will back up a reporting project we want to do (storm water in Puget Sound). So why not go ahead and do it? It’s their information once we give it to them, but we learned something. You can’t unring a bell.”

McClure clarified that I-West intends to undertake only paid private research projects that support I-West’s journalistic plans.

In year two, I-West intends to produce 6-8 major investigative features—and perhaps hire one more full-time staff reporter.

November 11, 2010

UNC proposes news biz game plan for 2014

On Friday Nov. 12, the University of North Carolina is presenting a paper that aims to show news organizations a potential path for renewal in the digital age. Here are some of the highlights from The News Landscape in 2014: Transformed or Diminished? Formulating a Game Plan for Survival in the Digital Age...

UNC’s game plan for news orgs has three complementary strategies:

Shedding legacy costs as quickly as possible. “In many newspapers, printing and distribution account for almost half of expenses… [But] few (if any) newspaper publishers have a game plan or timeline for transitioning a majority of their print readers to online delivery. ...The tipping point occurs when a well-defined and sizable segment of the population begins to organize daily life so as to take full advantage of the disruptive option. Staying on top of and ahead of this digital migration of readers is a strategic imperative for all traditional news organizations.”

Regain pricing leverage by recreating community online. “Media companies who survive a disruptive innovation understand that there are basically two ways to gain pricing leverage with advertisers. One is to build a mass audience and provide reach (“eyeballs”). The other is to provide access to a highly desirable (affluent or young, for example) community or a well-defined one (that can be targeted along geographic or political boundaries). ...Part of the issue is that newspapers, especially, have thought of themselves as reaching a “general interest” audience, instead of a “special” interest group.

“...[Newspapers could totally reorient reporting: [for example,] there would not be one A-1 story on the current health care debate, but instead several, aiming at the special concerns of those various communities.”

Building new online advertising revenue streams. “Unless newspapers can replace the loss of whole categories of print advertising with new online advertising revenue, then the ambitions of news organizations will be limited.”

November 15, 2010

News Entrepreneur Boot Camp 2011: Apply now

The Knight Digital Media Center at USC is now accepting applications for its 2011 News Entrepreneur Boot Camp—May 15-20 in Los Angeles.

This intense event includes one week of on-site classes and interaction, plus a six-week online learning/mentoring program. It’s designed for 20 competitively selected digital entrepreneurs who have great ideas for community news and information initiatives in the public interest…

Topics to be covered included:

  • Identifying the best business model for sustained success.
  • Developing a feasibility plan.
  • Audience development and customer acquisition.
  • Developing and implementing revenue and advertising strategies.
  • Successful social networking models.
  • Understanding and using analytics.

The cost of lodging, meals and instruction/coaching plus a subsidy for partial travel are included.

Deadline: January 14, 2011

November 30, 2010

Don’t blame the net for news biz woes, says Reuters Institute

The news business has hit hard times, and often the internet gets the blame for that. But that blame is misplaced, according to a new book from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism…

The Changing Business of Journalism and its Implications for Democracy assesses how the news business has fared in seven nations: Brazil, Germany, Finland, France, India, the UK, and the US.

From the executive summary:

“While the industry has certainly suffered severe declines in revenues in several countries in recent years, the latest downturns seem to be more closely connected with the relative degree of dependence on volatile revenue sources like advertising and on the differential impact of the global recession than with the spread of the internet.

“This is illustrated perhaps most forcefully by the difference between countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, where the private media sector have struggled in recent years—whereas countries like Germany and Finland (with comparable levels of internet penetration and use and strong public service media organisations operating on several platforms) have seen much more stable developments in the business of journalism.

“Both the industry and the profession are changing rapidly as new tools are being appropriated by journalists, sources and audiences, but the supposed crisis is far from universal, and the outcomes of current transformations far from certain.

“The differences identified and documented in this book not only highlight the enduring relevance of inherited national differences in audience demand, market structure and media regulation, but also that, despite deterministic (and often fatalistic) claims to the contrary, there is still time for the business of journalism to reinvent itself and move into the twenty- first century, provided media managers, professional journalists, and policy-makers and the citizens they represent are willing to learn from different developments around the world.”

Purchase this book (hardcover edition, £19.95 plus shipping) from Oxford University Press.

December 14, 2010

Newsroom cafe: Journal-Register Co. goes web-first with bold approach to community engagement

A daily paper from Northwestern Connecticut is now serving coffee and pastries along with news, in an effort to increase community engagement.

This week, the Register Citizen opened a new newsroom in Torrington, CT. The 13,000 square foot facility features the Journal-Register Company’s first newsroom café...

The newsroom café is open to the public and serves coffee and pastries. It also offers:

  • Free public wifi
  • Public access to more than 120 years of newspaper archives
  • Classroom/meeting space with video conferencing capabilities
  • Dedicated space and workstations for the public as part of The Register Citizen’s Community Media Lab.
  • And more...

While the newsroom café concept may be new—or at least novel—in the US, it’s been happening at least since 2009 in the Czech Republic. The New York Times reported in 2009 on a chain of Czech news coffeeshops operated by PPF group.

Eric Pfanner of the Times wrote:

“A free press is a relatively recent development in the Czech Republic, but it has not been immune from the travails the newspaper industry has faced in more-developed markets. Dozens of papers have been shut down in recent months as the economic crisis has deepened. Yet PPF, a firm based in Amsterdam with banking, insurance and media holdings in Central and Eastern Europe, sees an opportunity in the turmoil.

“PPF is starting small, investing less than 10 million, or $13.4 million, in the project for now. It plans [as of 2009] to begin publishing seven weekly newspapers and about 30 web sites serving four distinct regions of the country.

“...If the sites and newspapers are successful ...the goal is to add scores of similar ones across the Czech Republic—and perhaps beyond, in other Central and Eastern European countries.”

The news café idea occurred simultaneously—and independently—to David Cohn, founder of the journalism crowdfunding service In a 2009 blog post, he wrote:

“Aside from being a revenue stream (coffee, bagels, etc) it would create a deeper connection between the news organization and the public. Could story tips be garnered this way? Perhaps it would be a great way to meet and encourage citizen journalism partners. Could a news café take on MediaBistro in the workshops/training department? Could the space eventually be used to organize civilized public debates? Is this something that could be franchised and repeated in the following cities: San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, New York, etc?”

Good luck to the Register Citizen’s new venture. And take it easy on the espresso.

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