Friday, June 24, 2016

Media entrepreneurship takes hold at universities

Journalism professors are adapting to the realities of a historically tough job market. Their graduates are struggling to find stable work in an industry whose biggest players have been cutting staff for a decade.

So universities are teaching new skills -- multimedia production, community management, data management and visualization, among others -- as well as the traditional reporting, writing, and audivisual production skills.

They are also finding new business models. While the traditional media companies are hamstrung by mountains of debt and declining revenue, universities are stepping up to innovate and create new forms of journalism for the digital age.

A Facebook group for those interested in teaching media innovation and entrepreneurship has reached 800 members. And the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism is about to hold its third summit for educators in this growing field on July 15. Jeff Jarvis and Jeremy Caplan have been leaders in this field. I participated in the first two summit.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Spain's most successful digital journalism startup

In our search for the next big thing, we often overlook some of the steady innovators who grow organically without millionaire investors or crushing debt loads.

Alfonso Vara-Miguel of UNAV
One such example is El Confidencial of Spain (their slogan: "The preferred daily of influential readers").

This is a digital news publication whose value proposition for 15 years has been to offer quality news exclusives "that other media cover up or don't publish because of their overlapping political and business interests," according to researcher Alfonso Vara-Miguel, professor at the University of Navarra (in Innovación y desarrollo de los cibermedios en España, 2016, Eunsa, Pamplona, pp. 166-77).

Spanish news consumers are more skeptical of their news media than most (more on that below), so this independent-spirited publication, with a philosophy of spending no more than it takes in, has racked up some impressive numbers:

  • advertising revenue exceeded US $9.9 million in 2014
  • after-tax profits were US $1.3 million in 2014
  • full-time staff numbered more than 100
  • it averaged 735,000 daily readers in August 2015 (ComScore)

The value proposition is exclusive journalism free of political and business influence. 

Versión en español

Saturday, May 28, 2016

12 road maps for sustainable digital media worldwide

Renaissance maps showed monsters, hazards to avoid.
The future of journalism is increasingly digital, mobile, and in flux. It is unexplored territory. 

Like the explorers and navigators of the Renaissance, various organizations – governments, NGOs, journalism groups, and universities, among others – have been trying to map the most promising routes to sustainability in the new media ecosystem. 

It's not just about making money; it's about providing news and information crucial to a democratic society. 

Versión en español 

(At left, a map from Chet Van Duzer's book Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps. Click to enlarge.)

As traditional news media organizations have lost revenues, laid off employees, and reduced coverage, new digital media have emerged as important players in providing public-service journalism, especially on the local level.

Databases and promising routes

Researchers from a variety of organizations have created databases of thousands of new digital media to study best practices and find new models for sustainability. Below are the 12 studies that I have found useful, mostly taken from a paper I presented at the World Media Management and Economic Conference May 5 at Fordham University in New York City.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Univision looks beyond the U.S. to capture audience of 500 million Spanish speakers

AUSTIN, Texas -- Univision has been the most important Spanish language media company in the U.S. Now its digital news arm is taking aim at the 500 million Spanish speakers around the world. 

Borja Echevarria, its digital editor-in-chief, says his team is at the beginning of an initiative aimed at Spanish speakers in Latin America and globally. 

"Fishermen in the desert," Univision's report on a lake that dried up in Bolivia.
“We are covering topics that might occur in Bolivia but that could be related to something that occurs in Colombia or in Peru. We are not trying to attack highly local topics, at least not in this first stage. We are looking for topics of international interest.”
He made his comments to me in an interview in April on the sidelines of the International Symposium on Online Journalism.

Versión en español

An example of the kind of coverage he described was Univision.com’s multimedia package on Lake Poopó, the second-largest in Bolivia, which dried up because of climate change and has left a community of fishermen high and dry. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Readers pay for digital news when you sell the value

NEW YORK -- The big mystery in the newspaper industry has been how to get digital readers to pay for a product they have been getting free for years.

Denise Warren
The industry has struggled because subscription operations were always loss leaders that didn't pay for themselves. Executives had no idea how to run a profitable subscription operation and have been learning how to do it for the first time, said Denise Warren, who played a major role in the New York Times's transition to paid digital subscriptions.

She spoke May 3 to an audience of professors and industry representatives at the World Media Economics and Management Conference held at Fordham University.

Many publishers make the mistake of marketing their digital products on the basis of price and discounts, Warren said, when they should be promoting the unique value proposition of news and information that readers cannot get anywhere else.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Loyal users will pay for watchdog journalism

Kinsey Wilson. Photo by Mary Kang/Knight Center
AUSTIN, Texas -- One of the dirty little secrets in digital media is that the big numbers of page views and unique users touted by publishers are misleading at best. They overstate a publication's audience size and impact.

Most visitors to a publisher's content are fly-bys: They stay for only a few seconds. And even if they stay longer than that, the vast majority come to a publisher's website only once or twice a month. These are not loyal users devoted to a brand.

What is more interesting and meaningful, especially for publishers of serious news and information, is that the smaller number of loyal users -- who come frequently, linger, and read many pages -- is willing to pay for the content and other products. They identify strongly with the brand.

Kinsey Wilson, editor of innovation and strategy at the New York Times, brought the point home last week at the International Symposium on Online Journalism when he mentioned that 90 percent of  his publication's digital revenue comes from 10 percent of its users.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Panama Papers: Lone-wolf journalists form a pack

Investigative journalists have achieved a new level of sophistication and collaboration as shown by this explosive investigation of offshore tax havens used by the wealthy and powerful. 

The investigation by 109 media organizations from 76 countries has shaken government leaders from China to Russia to Great Britain. It has led to the resignation of the prime minister of Iceland, who used a tax haven to avoid paying taxes on 3.5 million euros. 

The 376 journalists on the Panama Papers team overcame many obstacles, not the least of which was their own competitiveness. All of these journalists and news organizations agreed not to publish any of their findings until the agreed upon time on Sunday April 3. 

Versión en español

These journalists, who are accustomed to work like lone wolves and jealously keep their sources and information to themselves, had to "radically share" information with each other and overcome differences in language, culture, and practice.