New Models To Compensate Journalists And Writers

from the it's-possible dept

We're seeing plenty of stories of old school journalists pining for the "good old days" (that never really existed), and that's exactly what the Wall Street Journal recently published with a ridiculously vapid opinion piece by a columnist for the Newark Star-Ledger, Paul Mulshine, who dismisses the entire world of bloggers and internet reporters because some people he hears on the TV and radio can't pronounce the word "pundit" properly. Beyond the sheer irony of dismissing internet reporting as being untrustworthy based on a few people on TV and radio who pronounce a word incorrectly, the guy also dismisses all new business models for compensating journalists, by saying:
The old model for compensating journalists is as obsolete as the telegraph. If anyone out there in the blogosphere can tell me what the new model is, I will pronounce him the first genius I've ever encountered on the Internet.
Perhaps Mr. Mulshine should stop listening to talk radio and actually get online -- where an increasing number of folks have actually figured out how to make journalism pay. We recently pointed out that, in the sports world, salaries for top journalists were going up, as national sites like ESPN looked to hire the best of the best.

Or perhaps he should talk to Mark Cuban -- though, I'm guessing Mulshine's old school views on journalism would have a serious problem with Cuban's recent suggestion for how to save newspaper sports coverage. Cuban points out that sports leagues need local beat writers to cover their sports, as they do a much better job than the national sites like ESPN and Yahoo Sports. Yet, he knows that newspapers are struggling -- so his suggestion is that the sports leagues should fund the journalists, while leaving the editorial control entirely up to the papers, aside from a guarantee of a certain amount of coverage in the local paper.

This is, obviously, a controversial suggestion (even with editorial control separated from the dollars), especially for those who believe in complete editorial separation of church and state. But, as Cuban notes, considering the state of the newspaper business these days, perhaps it's time to revisit that church. He also leaves out the fact that this isn't quite as far fetched as it sounds. Media companies have a pretty long history of also owning sports teams, seeing synergies between the media properties and the teams, though they've often failed to recognize those synergies (and these days, many media companies are trying to sell off the teams). The Tribune Company is trying to sell its stake in the Chicago Cubs. The NY Times has put out feelers to sell off its stake in the Red Sox (more of a fit for the NYT-owned Boston Globe). Cablevision, in NY, owns the Knicks. The concept has worked in reverse at times as well -- with much of the NY Yankees' recent fortunes coming from starting up its own media company, called YES (not to mention that before the current ownership of the Yankees, the team was owned by CBS).

Either way, the suggestion is actually worth exploring in some format. In truth, this is often what has happened anyway, with local companies buying ads in the paper and expecting coverage of the local sports teams, even when there wasn't a direct need for it. Making it more explicit, while also making the editorial controls clear, doesn't seem so unreasonable. In fact, it seems like it might make a lot more sense than the old way of doing things in that it gets everything out in the open. As for Mr. Mulshine, he also seems to be harkening back to good old days that didn't really ever exist. Nearly 100 years ago, there was apparently an eerily similar debate over newspaper business models, with people fretting and worrying about how the traditional newspaper business models of ad sales and subscriptions simply couldn't support enough journalism. While not many of the other proposed models took hold, perhaps it's time to take another shot.

And, in fact, this is part of what we believe we're able to do here at Floor64 with our Insight Community offering. Companies have been tapping into the Insight Community to generate interesting and relevant content, while ceding all editorial control to us. For example, American Express has been using Insight Community content on its own award-winning Open Forum blog discussing trends and issues related to small businesses. American Express does not have editorial control over most of the content, and the content is pretty clearly not specific to or slanted by American Express's sponsorship of the endeavor. And, as some people are noting, that blog is full of such wonderful content, that plenty of other mainstream publications, including the NY Times and the Financial Times, are noticing that such a publication really is no different than a small business trade publication now.

Except, rather than American Express having to buy ads in random small business trade publications, it gets to sponsor the whole thing -- while ceding much of the editorial control to others. Obviously, we're a bit biased here, because we believe this is a tremendously viable model, but if you read the content on that site -- or, say, the content on the Digital Nomads site, sponsored by Dell, that runs under a similar model, you can judge the quality of the content yourself -- and recognize that for all the whining and complaining about the old models going away, there are tremendous new opportunities opening themselves up, as well.
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Filed Under: business models, compensation, journalism, mark cuban, paul mulshine, sponsorship
Companies: floor64

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  • icon
    johnsonjb (profile), 7 Jan 2009 @ 11:55am

    I agree, but...

    I see one small problem. No matter how liberal an entity is, there is an almost religious fanaticism to cling to the ways that they know. The unbridled fear of trying something new, whether being motivated by monetary or professional means, causes these business leaders to cling to their old ways for all it's worth. Even if they have the financial mean to try something new, with relatively low cost to business if it fails, they would rather stay on the sinking ship. Glad to see some of the journalism outlets taking at least baby steps, to get out of that sinking ship. Who knows, they just might find the bottom is closer than they originally thought, they just have to put their feet down.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jan 2009 @ 12:24pm

    *yawn* just another moron given a voice to talk to other morons about how these new fangled widgets are just toys and no on is making money on the intrawebberz.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Overcast, 7 Jan 2009 @ 12:41pm

    With this... and the RIAA... It's kinda like back in the late 1800's - when the people/companies who made wooden ships got all mad over companies that made iron and steel ships.

    Point being - in no way would a wooden ship ever be able to compete with an iron or steel ship. Perhaps as a small boat, it would make sense. As a newspaper... as a small 'niche' item, they can continue to prosper.

    But when a printed paper attempts to compete with an instantaneous machine that can deliver even more than a newspaper ever could - it's a loosing battle.

    If they would have just kept making wooden ships larger and larger in an attempt to compete with large ships in the market where bigger was better, they would have been just out of business.

    You know - I still buy a local paper. For one thing - and one thing only - LOCAL news. I skip the first section altogether and jump right to the local pages.

    If the papers, RIAA and others look to compete at a 'grass roots' level, getting more local and more precise at what they can offer, they will likely stay afloat.

    But the attempt to compete with a computer on making media in print or media on CD viable is an exercise in futility.

    Lookup 'John Henry' and his battle with a machine for a more 'illustrated version' of this whole 'battle'.

    It will end the same way - it must.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jan 2009 @ 12:47pm

    not wanting to defend him but when "your way" has worked so well for you for such a long time its not easy to accept change.

    P.S. I do not know who this guy is but what i said only applies if he has been in the business for decades.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Stephen, 7 Jan 2009 @ 4:12pm


    I read Mulshine every day. Most of columns are better than this, but his tone never varies: "Get off my lawn, you kids!"

    Unsurprisingly, the Star-Ledger has the worst website I've ever seen. It's impossible to navigate. It has few pictures. Except for movie times, it's largely worthless.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    John Battelle, 7 Jan 2009 @ 7:32pm


    I think you nailed it Mike. As you might expect, I entirely agree. There's so much great work to do, and so many innovative approaches to doing it. The models are shifting. About time! It was clear to me the newspaper model of journalism was dead in 1991-2 when I took a job at the LA Times. It takes time for the shift, but it's very present now, and it's a huge opportunity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dan, 8 Jan 2009 @ 12:15am

    I used to buy a sunday paper for the weekly TV schedule. When the paper decided to stop printing the schedule I quit buying the paper. Now I use titanTV, I prefer a printed schedule on my coffee table but I will deal with it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Crosbie Fitch, 12 Jan 2009 @ 3:30am


    From: Newspapers are Numbskulls

    Good news will always be valued.

    Unfortunately, copies are extremely cheap to make, and ever greater numbers of people are paying a black market price for them rather than the monopoly price, i.e. paying nothing instead of something.

    Instead of a revenue model that depends on monopoly protected sale of copies of news, you’ll have to move to sale of news. Sell what people want (news), not that which they can make themselves for nothing (copies).

    Fortunately, the very device that makes copying so cheap is the same device that makes communicating with one’s customers so cheap, i.e. The Internet.

    So, form a bi-directional relationship with your online customers (see VRM) and sell the news to them, and moreover, encourage a free market in copies (rather than the black one that exists anyway).

    That’s what the new revenue model is.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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