Could Artists Help Newspapers? (And Vice Versa)
from the symbiotic-content dept
Reid Rosefelt writes “I thought you might be interested as this is a good example of how someone can make money out of free (or close to it). … Jeff Scher has had a long and successful career as a painter and an animator/experimental filmmaker…. Recently he was asked to make a short film [once] a month which would run in the Opinion Page of the New York Times. This has changed his life. It’s not just that his worldwide audience has grown beyond his wildest dreams; he is reaching a completely different kind of audience — people who would never have seen his movies in museums and festivals. And although he makes very little money doing them, it has been the best advertising in the world for his paid projects. … He is getting jobs that he would never have gotten, including one from one of his musical heroes.”
The details of this deal are a bit unclear to me, but it sounds like Scher gets free publicity for his work — and the New York Times gets some interesting content that might help promote its own reputation (and reason to buy). Also, according to Rosefelt, Scher retains ownership of his artwork, but the NYT has an exclusive license to show his work for the first month that it’s on the NYT site. While that detail may appear to be a shrewd clause for NYT to help it gain audience, it shouldn’t rely too heavily on that exclusivity. The NYT needs to focus on providing interesting and unique content all the time — and the month-long time limit suggests that someone in the deal might understand that fact. But in any case, this is yet another example of how providing digital content for free can create a viable business for an artist.
In the bigger picture, though, this promotion alone obviously won’t budge the NYT’s bottomline. However, this deal highlights one of the NYT’s strengths: that it can help artists (not just journalists) to connect with a large community — and an expanded business could be built around that strength. There’s an opportunity here for newspapers to reach broader audiences with content (beyond news) that is not a commodity. Experiments like this could point to more newspapers turning to curating unique content and providing more useful services to readers — services that can’t easily be copied.