Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

MediaWatch Monday:Non-Profit News Funding - We Need A Sustainable Business Model Not Handouts

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 5, 2009

Last week's announcement that philanthropist Warren Hellman is giving $5m to fund a non-profit news venture with UC Berkeley and KQED has been widely hailed as a good thing.

But I don't like it or any other non-profit approach to news journalism. The entire industry is already non-profit in that it doesn't make money.

The point it to find a new business model for news journalism -- that's what Mr Hellman's money should be used for. If we can develop new business models then everyone benefits, everyone can use the new business models.

If news journalism has to wait for handouts then it will never be a healthy industry.

We need innovation in news media and innovation means new types of media formats and also new types of business models. I meet innovative media entrepreneurs all the time.

For example, Shareen Newman publishes a very innovative site called Former Fat Chick. It's a unique media-rich site and she is exploring some innovative business models with corporations and health-care providers.

We need people like Mr Hellman to help fund some of our existing media entrepreneurs such as Ms Newman, to help them get off the ground. A $50k grant to Ms Newman would go a long way and potentially pave the way for others. That would be a much better use of Mr Hellman's money, imho.

I've got tons of ideas for new types of media initiatives. I'd love to have $1m and start ten unique media ventures as a type of media lab/incubator.

No handouts please

We don't need handouts -- we need to develop a way to effectively capture the value that media provides society. And we know it provides a tremendous amount of value because it continues to attract millions of readers. We just haven't figured out the "value recovery mechanism."

I think the future of media will be a type of "Heinz 57" model in that it will rely on many revenue streams. It will be advertising, lead generation, affiliate marketing, virtual cash, events, and more.

But traditional publishers don't want to have to manage multiple revenues streams and that's why they prefer to argue over types of online advertising (MediaWatch Monday: Missing The Point - Publishers Wrestle With Advertising Formats)

Finding a new business model for news and other media is the most important question about the future of the Internet. It is the Gordian knot of our times. Where is our Alexander?

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Here are some more ideas:

Newspapers: 25 things to try before turning off the lights | Tom Foremski: IMHO | ZDNet.com

We need a Google AdSense on steroids: The Grand Challenge of Internet 2.0

There's Real Gold In Virtual Cash - Is This A Solution For Newspapers?


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