Near the end, talk moved on to the subject of journalism enterprise.
When asked for a show of hands, most of the students said they would like to work in the mainstream media. Eighteen out of approx. 70 in the room said they wanted to work for a start-up.
I said I expected it would be those 18 that would be employed by mainstream media organisations. I guess, for me, the skills priority for journalists has changed.
It reminded me of a hypothetical situation someone put to me the other day:
You are the editor of a newspaper. You are allowed to employ one more person. You can choose either a writer that has won a Pulitzer prize or a writer that has built an online community of 40,000 highly committed readers and contributors. Which do you choose?
I know nothing is ever that clear cut, of course. This is a real “daddy or chips” question. Yet, I guess how you answer it gives a good indication of how you think we should train our journalists of the future.
This really is not thought out as well as I’d like, but it seems important so here goes:
In search of the sustainable business model for online journalism it seems to me that there are two areas that are key:
1. Well-organised data
News is information, information is data. The better the structures you have in place to organise and classify that data, the more likely you will be able to sell what you have as a unique service. You also have a better ability to repurpose, reinvent and diversify what you do for the changing needs of clients/customers.
2. A loyal network
In journalism you are nothing if you don’t have a community backing you. Newspapers need readers, sites need users. Online is no different, you may have the scale, but you also need some form of loyalty and personal buy in to what you do. These are the people who are of interest to sponsors/advertisers and they also might save you if times get tough.
As the flow of comments has started to slow on the Flickr post, I thought I’d let you all know what I plan to do next!
Over the next few weeks (after I’ve finished my first assignment), I’ll start collating the comments. I think what has come out from the discussion is going to be applicable to a lot of the other things I wanted to looking at for the website project.
I had just assumed (naively, perhaps) that because people were happy for bloggers to link to their work (as long as they were credited), they would also be happy for a site like The Birmingham Post to link to it too.
This, however, doesn’t seem to be completely the case. Most of the concern seems to come from the belief that – as we are a commercial publishing operation – any and all the material we link to on the web must be paid for.
I can understand that point, but I think the distinction between commercial and non-commercial spaces on the Internet needs to be looked at in more detail. Not that I’m going to do that right here and now – the comments have given me way too much to mull over!
In my head, I saw The Birmingham Post website as a place to go for news and opinion, but also as a (sorry to use this word) gateway to Brum’s professional and creative communities on the web. I still see it that way, but I now realise I need to look at how I’m going to do that in more depth.
But please keep the comments coming in, I really want to get to grips with this.