Letting go: Making sense of social magazines and news readers

Selasa, 05 Juni 2012
Applications that aggregate articles based on what others in one’s social network are reading and reformat them into an attractive magazine and presentation formats are growing in popularity, but they are raising concern among some publishers.

The processes build upon the referral and curating functions of colleagues and friends in social networks and reduce the need for users to go to multiple sites for content on their own. Some of the best known social magazines are Flipboard, Newsmix, Currents, and Pulse. Some publishers are starting their own social reading apps, such as New York Times that has a Facebook app pulling together stories that friends have read in NYT.
Many publishers are fearful of these developments, however, because they represent another step away from publishers controlling when, where, and how readers use their content, reduce the impact of the publishers’ brand strategies, and diminish control over the presentation and marketing of their content.

But publishers really don’t have a choice whether or not social magazines and readers grow in importance. That ship has sailed. The real choices is whether publishers use them for best effect and whether they are willing to accept the benefits of having more readers driven to their content and reaching persons who haven’t used their content before.
In coping with this and other disaggregation of content, however, many publishers need to adjust their own ways of presenting digital content. Because readers from social magazines, other aggregators, and search engine are directed to individual articles, it becomes more important to think about how that material appears to these new readers and what can be done in its layout to attract the new readers to stay on the site and sample more content. They are not entering through the home page so greater thought needs to be given to what appears on article pages.

Social magazines provide another mechanism by which deliver content to new readers and to existing readers in new ways.  They are not the ‘silver bullet’ for solving publishers’ digital challenges, but they are another means by which benefits can be obtained and pursued. 
Focusing on what control social magazines transfer to users and their branding downsides is a distraction for publishers who are beginning to learn the value of letting go of the control in the digital environment. Digital media are now bringing 15-20 percent of the traffic to many publishers’ digital content and they are feeling the benefits of letting readers decide the means and uses of that content.

Is the future of digital journalism an outside job?

Jumat, 11 Mei 2012
Making small digital news providers sustainable has become the holy grail of journalists and the search continues for workable business models and revenue streams.

Advertising may produce some revenue, but it will never generate sufficient resources to support digital journalism because so little advertising money is available for sites with small audiences. About three-quarters of all online advertising goes to the top 10 sites and Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Yahoo account for about 60 percent of all online revenue. This leaves very little advertising expenditures to be contested among all other players--of which news providers are only a small fraction. At the same time, the prices paid for online advertising are falling because there are so many sites offering advertising, the advertising inventory is nearly infinite, and audiences continue fragmenting.

This means the majority of funding for start-up digital journalism must come from elsewhere and online news sites—especially start-ups—are having mixed success trying to construct multiple revenue streams from philanthropy, memberships, events, consulting services, and payment systems. Both large legacy news organizations that dominate provision of news in the digital space and free automated aggregators are hampering efforts of small sites to develop audiences. The primary successes that can be observed have been for start-ups carrying out special forms of journalism or concentrating on highly specific topics.

The answer to sustainability may not lie in the business creation and business operational approach. The key to making emergent digital news providers sustainable may lie in the 18th and 19th century approaches to journalism, in which journalism was an avocation and not a profession (or at least only a part-time profession).

If one reviews the history of newspaper start-ups around the world, one finds that the bases of journalistic compensation were not journalism itself. It many cases it was funded by public employment—serving as postmasters, teachers, or other civil servants—or by operating commercial endeavours—such as printing firms, taverns, and retail shops (Even brothels funded the costs of newspapers in some towns in the Western U.S. during the nineteenth century).

The current inability to effectively fund small-scale digital journalism means that we all need to be thinking more broadly about how we can support the functions and people involved in them. If the past is a guide, we may need to return to provision of local journalism as community activism, political activity, or business support service—all of which played significant roles in establishment of news provision in years past.