It was with great interest, but also skepticism, that led me to read Marc Andressesen’s take on the Future of the News Business. Having been part of this business for more than a decade until I decided to shift to something else, I read, and re-read his thoughts about News being run as a business.
I’m expecting a lot of heads shaking from the world that weaned me into who I am today. The world of journalism, with the capital J, is not too accepting of the mere idea of having “business” mixed with “journalism.” There are so many situations and stories about the bad marriage of business and journalism. As Marc puts it, it is indeed a Great Wall separating these two areas in news outfits. Why? Money, while it is important to keeping the lights on, it is often used to influence or even dictate the news agenda. Who do you think owns media today? Media as we know it is an expensive endeavor, given how it was built and organized.
But, Marc disagrees and he listed down companies breaking out of THE mold. His list includes the traditional outfits that have “successfully” transitioned to being a digital powerhouse. Their business models, however, are not too disruptive if we compare them to how Apple changed the music, mobile, and computing industry. Perhaps I’m looking for more radical ideas out there–Vice would be one of them, or even Red Bull–yes, the power drink that is creating its own branded content by focusing on depth and a niche of extreme sports coverage.
I agree that news is more widespread today than, say, 10 years ago. News is now a commodity because distribution is so pervasive. And for any commodity, the value goes down. So in order to make profits out of a commodity, you have to have reach–and scale. This is the main motivation that runs today’s BIG media.
Let’s go to the money aspect of news. Unfortunately, advertising is a big motivation for BIG media. Subscription, premium content, and other more creative business models have yet to take off in countries outside of the US. Internet portals like Yahoo!, Facebook, and Google all thrive because of their immensity–and they will continue to grow bigger. They need to shoot for the stars and create huge demand in order to make profit. Each, however, has different means and motivation to get there. What about the traditional BIG media that is dependent on advertising. Now, that’s where all this fear of news being seen as a business arises. It’s a bitter pill to swallow for most journalists trained to be objective to even think how advertisers have greater influence on News. Without advertising money, how can BIG media get by?
Marc’s take on News as a Business is a step in the right direction, but as to the industry he wants to focus on, he may have a blindspot. Media, as we know it, has changed. It’s no longer the domain of the J-School-trained professionals. In fact, I should digress on the issue of why J-Schools should include a mix of “News as a Business” in its subjects/courses. And why entrepreneurship should me a must-have in their curriculum. Journalists should start thinking like entrepreneurs. But this is a discussion that will take another posting.
I go back to Red Bull, and why I think it is on to something. Take out the brand behind this venture, and we see how media and journalism can be a profitable business. Media has always been a generalist, and thus wants to spend all of its time covering the widest topics as much as possible. Thus, we’ve seen beats created in newspapers, which allows these news organizations to dip its finger on vertical topics of interest. But as we’ve seen how Cable companies have evolved–there’s money to be made in niche. And that’s where Red Bull Media is making a killing. Why? They practically own extreme sports coverage today–and by the way–their brand is all over the place. Isn’t that how advertising should be? Subtle and yet valuable?
I’ve seen this happen when I was still with an Internet portal. Digital ad spending is increasing two-to-three-fold. Big Media has seen this–and thus we’ve seen efforts shift to digital. Those who are stuck in their old ways will soon realize they’re at a tipping point where the curve is headed south.
I don’t claim to have all the answers at this point. But having seen what BIG Media has been doing all these years–trying to deliver the same s%^&* to its audience, in the guise of journalism, it pains me how it has forgotten the very essence of why we need to informed, and educated about things around us. Its motivations have changed. And so are the people running it.
Marc is right in picking out some lessons, but I totally agree with him on the idea of ingraining entrepreneurship to incoming journalists. Why? It pushes them not to accept status quo–and that’s where good, creative ideas start flowing.
It has been a while since I’ve written for a magazine. If you have a bit of money to spare, grab the latest issue of Men’s Health (August 2013), which also happens to be its 100th issue.
In this edition, I write about four health heroes who come from different backgrounds: a dancing doctor, “warriors” against HIV, and a real-life “Ironman.” They are all part of the “Heroes of Health and Fitness” in the Philippines.
Have a burning question that’s been in your mind? Who do you call? (Ghostbusters!)
Seriously, I would assume you would go online and start searching for answers. Or, in this era of social, you can ask your peers.
Quora is one social network that offers answers to even the most ridiculous questions you have. But unlike its predecessors (i.e Yahoo! Answers, Answers.com), Quora is also a community of experts. It allows you to also find experts of various topics. In my case, I was looking for some background information and a starting point on my research on data journalism. It so happens that there were some experts in Quora who answered back a day after I posted my question. Amazing, right?
Data journalism is a relatively new, but growing field of the practice in story telling. While data crunching is not new to the practice of journalism, data journalism is an innovation. Understanding data mining, data visualization, spreadsheets, and some basic programming are some of the skills required. (Don’t be scared. This part does not require prior programming experience).
It’s not easy leaving a job to pursue my aspirations of entrepreneurship. Now I know what they mean by a “roller coaster ride.” It sucks sometimes.
It has been more than a month since I decided to take a plunge. So far, there are days I wished I was back in the rat race. But there are days that I won’t give up time with my family and children. They say work and life balance is an illusion. It is up to us to decide how we want to spend our time.
But don’t get me wrong. I’m glad I made the decision to slow down. I remember a friend of mine tell me, “Spend more time with your kids while they’re young.” When they get older, they will have less time for you. We all know this, as we have once been young.
On July 15, I would have been 4 years in my job. Looking back, those years felt longer. The challenges, the struggles, the wins, the people, and the mountains I needed to conquer–those years were precious. But all these are without meaning if you cannot find your center.
Yes, in life, we can get lost. I was lost many times. Getting buried in work or the life that I chose before, I often veer away from the important things in life: family and God. The latter is still a challenge. Work is work–it gets you by. But if you lose your center, none of these things matter: fame, glory, money, power, etc.
My wife and kids are my center in this life. Making them happy gives me peace. So sometimes I push myself at work because I thought giving them what they want will make them happy. But TIME is what they need (sounds like a song!).
They need your time, your presence, your support, your heart, and your spirit. We see many relationships fail these days, broken families, couples who spend more time hating each other. I too had my share of problems. But if you keep reminding yourself what is your center, you will see better days.
We all wish life can be simple. Truth is, we can do it. But first, find and know your center. You may fall on the wayside. But when THAT happens, you know that someone you love will help you get back. I know, I’m slowly getting back on my feet, and making strides. I won’t make a sprint because this life is a marathon. See you all in the finish line.
So what is crowd-funding, and why is Kickstarter becoming the platform of choice for many initiatives worldwide?
Crowd-funding’s meaning has evolved over time. It now refers to a “collective effort of people” to fund an initiative, a project, a new product, an idea, or a start-up company. Kickstarter is a company that took crowd-sourcing to the Internet, and made it a successful business model.
In Kickstarter’s own words:
We’re a home for everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology. Kickstarter is full of projects, big and small, that are brought to life through the direct support of people like you. Since our launch in 2009, more than 4.3 million people have pledged over $676 million, funding more than 44,000 creative projects. Thousands of creative projects are raising funds on Kickstarter right now.
ProPublica is now one of growing number of creative projects using this platform to seek funding. They’ve cited several lessons they’ve picked up with this exercise. Among them is “mobilize your own readers and networks.”
As a group that has grown its network through its developmental and investigative journalism, ProPublica said it used its content, stories, and social media to generate interest in its project.
You also need a solid story to sell the idea–and some perks for donors.
Based on our experience, Kickstarter can be a great tool for creative, unique projects, but also tricky for those designed around story-driven projects. But if your newsroom has the time, resources and smart idea, it’s definitely worth an experiment.
Just imagine if a site will focus on crowd-sourcing more journalism projects. Would this work in societies where media is controlled by few, elite owners who are often sacred cows? Will this business model be able to sustain journalism in general, thereby letting go of the tried and tested advertising model?
Am sure someone has thought of this. What about you?
Other successful journalism projects funded via crowd-sourcing:
But if you’re “lazy” (and I put that in quotes), grab these apps or subscribe to these services. This list will keep you posted on what’s happening around you without even trying.
1. Flipboard: It’s an app available on both an Android and on an iPhone. As the app is advertised, it’s a personal magazine that allows you to catch up on news “on the fly.” You just need to select topics of interest, social networks, and personal magazines created by people to find out what’s up in the universe. In fact, Facebook is now devising its own version, dubbed “Reader.” What’s good about Flipboard is that it’s curated content, meaning they’re handpicked content. This saves you a lot of time of searching for articles you want. Version 2 now allows you to even share and read what others are “flipping.” So go ahead, and download this app.
2. Spundge. They say this is like Pinterest meet Evernote. But it’s more than that. It’s a service that allows you to become a content curator, and still keep your computer clutter in check. One of the curses of the Internet is there’s too much information to curate now. We may be reading the same things. So the service adds another layer: collaboration. Spundge allows you to create “notebooks” that contains all important bookmarks, content, and other information you need. If you want people to know what you’re reading, Spundge allows you to share your notebooks.
3. Zite. It’s a magazine that gets smarter the more you use it–that’s the pitch for this app. Indeed, it is. I have been using Zite–and have depended on it for my breaking news every day (until I switched to Fliboard). Zite is a personalized magazine that allows you to discover more content based on your interests. Zite’s secret sauce is an algorithm that depends on your preference. Once you find an article you like, you’re asked to press “heart” and the system remembers it. Next time you’re back, it shows more topics of your choice. So it learns the more you heart articles. Another feature that I like here is the thumbs down–which only means the system will show less of that topic next time you open it. Cool, right?
4. Prismatic. Similar to Zite, Prismatic curates content based on your interests. You can log on using your social networks too. In my case, I used my Facebook account to log-on. It’s filtering system allows you to find the signal in all the noise. Honestly, I have not been using this service as much as the 3 other services mentioned above. Prismatic, however, has a powerful engine under its hood. As its co-founder Bradford Cross explains in a GigaOm article: “It’s not just about personalization… it’s about how media is consumed now. In the old days, you could just go to the New York Times and get all your news, or whatever. But that’s not the case any more, and it will likely never be the case again. The news is all distributed now, to a thousand different places.” So let’s see how this service pans out. Maybe I will like it soon. Initial reviews indicate that relevancy of content in this service is among its top features.
There are more similar apps and services out there. But these are perhaps the most that my attention can handle or I get more clutter on my mobile device this time.
What about you, do you have apps you wish to add to this list?