There Are Lots Of Ways To Fund Journalism

from the if-you-look-around dept

As various folks in the news business (and outside of it) continue to fret about how it could be possible to ever fund the production of news, some are taking more positive looks at the space. Jay Rosen has listed out 18 different sources of subsidies for funding journalism (or journalism-like) work. Some of them are better than others, but it's a useful list to get you a thinking. Full disclosure: a part of our own business model is on the list. Along those lines, since people have been saying nice stuff about our business model, Jesse Hirsh has a way-too-nice writeup about our CwF+RtB experiment, which I still think is a bit short of a full business model, but is getting closer. Based on our experiences with it, we're getting more and more ideas on how to fund not just journalism, but all sorts of content creation.

And, really, that's the idea. There are lots of different ideas and experiments going on -- and many of them are showing early signs of success, and I'm sure more will come along at a later date that are even more successful. Really, the only ones complaining and demanding changes to the law are those who represent the old way of doing things, and don't want to change. They talk up all sorts of horror stories and moral panics about how "journalism" or "music" or "movies" are going to go away -- despite the fact that we actually have more of all three of those things happening today than at any time in history. Based on that faulty reasoning, they demand special protection not for "journalism" "music" or "movies" but for the old business models and old institutions that produced all three.

Eventually, as these new business models and new institutions work themselves out, it'll suddenly seem "obvious" what the right answers were, and people will forget the hundreds if not thousands of different experiments -- both good and bad -- that went into developing the new model. It's a time of upheaval, for sure, but there's no indication that there's any real risk to the production of content. Just a few businesses that got big and don't want to change with the times.


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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 20th, 2009 @ 5:36am

    They talk up all sorts of horror stories and moral panics about how "journalism" or "music" or "movies" are going to go away -- despite the fact that we actually have more of all three of those things happening today than at any time in history

    Not at the same level. Most often you are trading one major league (inset item here) for a dozen minor leaguers. Sort of like killing major league baseball, and then claiming baseball is on the rise because 100 new pre-teen teams have started up for the next season.

    Aggregate volume? Sure. That warms an economist's heart. But quality, content, public visiblity? Things lost in the shuffle to make the largest number of widgets, I guess.

     

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  2.  
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    Mike C. (profile), Nov 20th, 2009 @ 5:53am

    Re:

    The problem I see is an issue of whether or not that "major league" is still any good? I have two boys that play Cal Ripken baseball and those games are FAR more exciting than any major league game I watched this year. Yes, I'm biased for the games my kids are in, but almost ALL of the games at all levels of play were fun to watch because the smaller league takes the time to balance the teams. This makes game play more even, less lopsided victories, etc. I was just as happy watching two unrelated teams while waiting for my kids games to start as I was watching their games.

    Additionally, if major league was gone, the exhorbitant amounts of money spent on it could help fund far more baseball at the lower levels. I understand the natural desire to be bigger, but bigger isn't always better.

     

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  3.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Nov 20th, 2009 @ 6:21am

    Re:

    Actually, it's more like the major league is full of 60+ year olds with weigh problems and heart conditions, but the Baseball Association of America keeps saying that unless we keep all those damn kids off our lawn... baseball lawn, they're gonna kill baseball with all their running and stealing bases and doing all that unneeded athletic stuff. That what's important is not to watch an active, "sporty" sport, but that these old players are the only ones with "experience" and thus are the only ones worth watching.

    And that the government should subsidize their enemas and IV lines and diabetes pills and somehow keep the new young players from competing, because then all the rabble will get to profit from baseball instead of the old timers.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 20th, 2009 @ 6:49am

    A monopoly on journalism is the only way to fund journalism because the lobbyists insist on it.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 20th, 2009 @ 6:50am

    Re:

    and everyone knows that lobbyists are never wrong either.

     

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  6.  
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    chris (profile), Nov 20th, 2009 @ 8:15am

    Re: Re:

    Additionally, if major league was gone, the exhorbitant amounts of money spent on it could help fund far more baseball at the lower levels. I understand the natural desire to be bigger, but bigger isn't always better.

    not to mention that bigger is less adaptable to change. sure, you get economies of scale and the like, but if the market changes, then the changes you make will have to be large scale as well, meaning slow and costly.

    part of the problem with "major leagues" not changing with the times is that there is so much involved with changing a big institution. i would imagine that to many content types, it seems easier to change the market and punish consumers than it would be to change internally.

    it's like changing the course of a ship: a battleship can't turn quickly, can't turn sharply, and can't turn often. attempting to do so could be disastrous. smaller ships can turn quick, sharp, and often and suffer far less when doing so.

    also, if there is a large number of small ships, some can turn in a variety of directions while others maintain their present courses. if some of them sink there is less impact than the loss of a single large ship.

    so while the loss of "major league" content production is inevitable it's not a bad thing, on the contrary, it's a very good thing. smaller, more specialized firms will emerge to deliver content that is more tailored to specific customer interests.

    this trend is already apparent: since i can get news from anywhere, i choose to get my national news from british papers (the BBC, the telegraph, and the guardian) even though i am american and live in the US. i find that the british view of the US contains way less spin than CNN, fox news, or the new york times.

    i am sure brits will tell you that the beeb and the others are just as corrupt as their american counterparts, but the difference is that british papers have fewer american advertisers, owe less to the american government, and therefore are more likely to be objective.

     

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  7.  
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    Hulser (profile), Nov 20th, 2009 @ 8:20am

    Eventually, as these new business models and new institutions work themselves out, it'll suddenly seem "obvious" what the right answers were

    Reminds me of this quote...

    "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed, second it is violently opposed, and third, it is accepted as self-evident."
    - Arthur Schopenhauer


    Ridiculed - "They're letting people decide how much they want to pay for the album! Ha! How stupid!"

    Violently opposed - "We have to have this new law so that our profits, uh...I mean the profits of the artists we represent are protected!"

    Accepted as self-evident - "Well, duh. Everyone knows that selling t-shirts was the solution all along." ;-)

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 20th, 2009 @ 9:08am

    Re:

    If selling t-shirts is the answer, someone needs to restate the question.

    No ridicule, just an obvious thought.

     

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  9.  
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    Hulser (profile), Nov 20th, 2009 @ 9:39am

    Re: Re:

    See, there's this thing called an emoticon. It's meant to convey an emotion that might otherwise be lost in the medium of the writtent word. For example, the ;-) is the wink emoticon and is sometimes used to convey sarcasm. Glad I could help.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 20th, 2009 @ 12:23pm

    Since the first 3 require government money, you are in favor of giving tax money to these guys?

    Yeah, a high earning spouse. Great list. Just cause you are on it doesn't mean its a good list. This article should have started with "And now a word from our sponsor" or maybe "we paid for this list"

     

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  11.  
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    Chargone (profile), Nov 20th, 2009 @ 12:24pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    well, sarcasm is included, but it seems to be a general marker for 'don't take this too seriously, and stop and think about how it's funny before invoking RAGE! or other negative responses'.

    sarcasm included.

    exact emoticon meaning varies by user, but most have a general... range.

    this is more elaboration than correction.

     

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  12.  
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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Nov 20th, 2009 @ 2:06pm

    Re:

    Yeah, a high earning spouse.

    When I saw that, I thought how true for music. The standard joke among musicians is, "What is a musician without a girlfriend?"

    "Homeless."

    At least Rosen is acknowledging reality.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 20th, 2009 @ 2:47pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Umm, I caught your sarcasm, and mine was the same. "t-shirt" is a placehold for anything that isn't selling what you should be selling, the product.

    Don't sell newspapers, sell t-shirts.

    Don't sell music, sell t-shirts.

    Don't sell movies, sell t-shirts.

    It's a cover all of the concept of selling people what they don't want, and giving away what they do want.

    As a business model, it becomes glaringly more stupid as the days go by.

     

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  14.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 20th, 2009 @ 3:18pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    As a business model, it becomes glaringly more stupid as the days go by.

    Other than the fact that it, you know... works.

    Whereas trying to sell what is abundantly available, does not.

    I like living in reality where we focus on what works, rather than pretending that what does not work really really should work.

     

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