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31/08/2008

The separation of news and commerce?

CNN Newsful.jpg

Image: A CNN ad for its mobile news service - an alternative to ad-funded news or another advertising opportunity?

Now here's a challenging thought: what if news and ads don't go together at all anymore? What if all of the soul and spreadsheet-searching that's been going on since the web opened up the global attention market for news and current affairs has been in vain: there is no business model folks, move on?

That's the position floated by Roy Greenslade on his Guardian (part of a trust, rather than a PLC or private company). Critiquing a post by Philp M Stone on Follow the Media that argues for a return to print-first (only publishing online once the dead tree edition has hit the streets) Greenslade that his respected colleague..

...has fallen into that trap of seeing journalism only in business terms. Unless news can attract advertising, it makes no commercial sense to transmit news. No profit, no news.

That is a giant error. We have to free ourselves from the newspapers-as-advertising-sheets paradigm of the 19th and 20th centuries. News does not have to be linked to commerce. Indeed, it's clear that the separation between the two is already happening....

We have to see beyond commercial models that echo those of the past. Though it's fair to say that newspapers are dying, what we really should be saying is that the traditional newspaper business model is dying. It cannot be resurrected by trying to secure online advertising.

It's not as mad as it sounds. Other types media owners have been forced to look beyond advertising for revenue for ages: they focus on where else their franchise may have potential to be useful to their following are provide goods and services where they can to meet demand.

Perhaps this seeming heresy the flip-side of the thinking that leads us to say that marketing must be useful if it is to get any attention at all. We're experimenting at iCrossing with different forms of journalism - marketing led, but experiments with new models of journalism is exactly what they are. I'm not saying we've got the new models, just that we're exploring ideas.

Comments

Oops. I was inspired by Antony's post to ask how we will pay for journalism:
http://blog.hackbash.com/2008/09/02/how-will-we-pay-for-journalism/

I meant to leave a comment here, but I fell asleep. Very rude of me; but in my defence it had got pretty late.

It's a fascinating debate and one that should be engaging all journalists worried about the profession's future. Greenslade might well be onto something, but as the commenters on his post rightly point out he doesn't suggest an alternative revenue model. Journalists need to eat.

As Antony says, we're experimenting at iCrossing with other ways to fund our trade. I'm not sure we've yet found the answer, but it's good to be eating.

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