Sunday, May 6, 2012

What 9 European news startups can teach us

A new study of nine entrepreneurial journalism ventures in France, Germany and Italy offers insight into the current industry crisis as well as hope for the future.

 University of Oxford and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism have just published an online book, “Survival is Success: Journalistic Online Startups in Western Europe,” by Nicola Bruno and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen. Among their observations:

  •  There is no single formula that works for all. "New ventures can succeed in many different ways."
  •  Advertising alone cannot support a meaningful digital news operation in Western Europe. The virtually infinite supply of web pages available has driven down the price of advertising, and the sector is dominated by a few big U.S. players, namely Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Facebook.
  • European startups have an audience limited to their own countries because of language, unlike English language sites that can attract a global audience.
  • The most successful of the nine start-ups in the study have identified niches poorly served by the incumbent industry in a particular area. (This is not different from the U.S.) They focus on unique content and they develop unique strategies around that content.

Those most likely to thrive operate with lean organizations and have diverse revenues. The authors observe:
"The last decade has been one of creative destruction in the news industry across Western Europe. The story of destruction is well known....The story of creativity is less often told. Even as inherited professional practices and business models are under sometimes immense pressure, pioneers are prospecting for the future of journalism both within and outside existing legacy media organisations, creating new opportunities for journalists to practise their profession along the way."
Bruno and Nielsen have no use for the futile nostalgia for the good old days; they are focused on the future and on solutions. Their profile of the successful French investigative journalism website, is summarized here.

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