In May’s “The Story So Far” (also available as a downloadable pdf), the Columbia School of Journalism’s Bill Grueskin, Ava Seave and Lucas Graves all but conclude there is not a sustainable business model to support top-quality journalism at current levels.
They see at least three main factors upsetting journalism’s business model:
- Audiences’ expectation of free high-quality content
- The commodification of high-volume advertising
- Advertisers’ ability to bypass media properties and speak directly to consumers
Other issues, like Craigslist and eBay co-opting the classifieds, and the parasitic growth of content aggregators, also damage traditional media’s ability to support itself.
The authors don’t believe that paywalls will be an effective measure, though they may provide marginal revenue in the mobile space.
According to the book-length article, if journalism survives, the future will belong to small independent teams of multimedia journalists working in conjunction with integrated sales/marketing staff who offer a range of services beyond advertising.
Grueskin, Seave and Graves’ overall advice is to expect lots of failures, but keep trying: “If a company can place small bets on many ventures, the probability increases that one will win.”
Here are their (borderline impossible to implement) recommendations:
- Create “high-value, less commoditized content designed for digital media”
- Minimize re-publishing print content online
- “Revamp digital offerings to ensure deeper loyalty”
- Stop hating aggregaters and learn to play the aggregation game
- “Redefine the relationship between audience and advertising”
- Rethink relationships with advertisers by acting as digital guides and facilitators
- Avoid publishing low-value, volume-based advertising
- Develop alternatives to the impression-based pricing system