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.

Filed Under: business models, compensation, journalism, mark cuban, paul mulshine, sponsorship
Companies: floor64

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  1. 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.

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