I’ve been wondering, in the context of the great search for new business models for news, whether the following could work as model for the creation, distribution and consumption of news content, as a complete replacement for today’s vertically integrated news organizations:
- A network of completely independent journalists who gather news and post their news content on blogs
- A variety of aggregators who collect, organize and promote this output—locally, regionally, nationally, and around various niche interests
- A universe of news consumers access news, directly from the blogs of the independents as well as from the aggregators; and share, digest and repurpose news in social networks.
- Other enterprises provide related services such as the aggregation and organization of raw data (this might be Google) and the management of a set of localpedias and nichepedias (this could be Wikipedia operating at a more granular level than it does today)
Essentially, this model would expand to a societal level the Intellipedia model I described recently—not within a single organization but as a set of networked individuals and entities. The reporter becomes an entrepreneur, the editor becomes an aggregator and wiki moderator, the news librarian becomes a database vendor, the readership becomes a networked community, the publisher manages the flow of advertising revenue among all of them.
So where’s the “monetization” part of this business model? Here are some possible components:
- Blogs for independent journalists: Anil Dash of Six Apart just created the TypePad Journalist Bailout Program, intending to help out a few friends but ending up with a wave of interest. Participants get, Anil writes: “a TypePad blog, a place in our Six Apart Media advertising program, promotion on Blogs.com, and a healthy dose of our expertise and insights into helping publishers and bloggers succeed online.”
- Resources like David Cohn’s brilliant startup, Spot.Us, allowing crowdfunding as one of the ways journalists get paid.
- Tools such as Attributor to help track use of content by aggregators and flow audience and advertising share back to the originators.
- A system like the one envisioned by the Information Valet Project to regulate the allocation of advertising and transactional revenue across all components of the network, including, potentially, news consumers themselves.
And, how do we get from here to there? Well, if the components of our existing news network, like newspapers, continue to self-destruct, we may well get there by default, with the survivors self-organizing themselves in this fashion. And newspaper organizations that get serious about reinventing themselves for the digital future might well want to look at models that involve networking of independent entrepreneurial components rather than monolithic enterprises.