How Journalism May be Financed in the Future

October 19, 2010 • Media Economics • by

An overview of financing models in the Anglo-Saxon world.

As the traditional business model for journalism no longer works, the publishing industry, Internet start-ups and consultants search for new ways to support newsrooms without depending on advertising revenue. The “trial and error” initiatives accompanying this process have since become difficult to overlook.

In their latest book, Funding Journalism in the Digital Age: Business Models, Strategies, Issues and Trends, Jeff Kaye and Stephen Quinn provide an overview, presenting the most-discussed potential financing models – among them partnerships of media companies with giants like Google and Yahoo, adjusting news websites to search engines in order to reel in readers, and the increasing focus on hyper-local news content. Also included are experiments such as “dayparting” – attempting to reach new groups of online consumers by adapting content to the daily information-seeking patterns of users.

Micropayments are presented as crowdfunding projects aiming to finance journalism with voluntary contributions. The initiatives of select philanthropist-millionaires (like ProPublica funders Herbert and Marion Sandler) may help investigative journalism survive in the Internet age, as would billions of “endowment dollars” needed to continuously finance newsrooms like the New York Times or the Washington Post from the dividends of a capital stock.

Kaye has extensive experience working as a journalist, media consultant and academic in the U.S. and Great Britain. Quinn is a journalism professor in Australia and spent more than two decades as a journalist in the United Kingdom and Australia. He recently spent a sabbatical at Stanford University in California. The authors’ pooled competence allows for an informed overview, albeit partially superficial. Sources are mentioned, but frequently not well documented, and many elements simply can’t be tapped into in only 177 pages.

The main drawback of the book is its focus on the anglophone world. Certainly, this is where the music plays (mostly), as many of the Internet’s innovations still arrive from the U.S. and the print media crisis has reached much more dramatic dimensions there. Yet interesting business models have been developed in other language areas, for example in Scandinavia, as well as collateral products like books, CDs, videos in Italy and Spain. Such aspects are unfortunately escaping the attention of the authors.

Published in Neue Zürcher Zeitung, October 19, 2010

Jeff Kaye/Stephen Quinn:  Funding Journalism in the Digital Age: Business Models, Strategies, Issues and Trends, New York u.a.: Peter Lang, 2010

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