WATCH FOR THE WILD CARDS

It’s a typewriter, folks

There are opportunities in the media business these days, but they’re wild cards. Not long ago a rock-solid digestion system went burping away happily on its solid fare of dailies and community newspapers, radio, television, and magazine small fry. Now the media environment is a swamp where the two biggest denizens want very much to become one middle-sized one, not leaving a lot for the rest.

‘The 150-year daily recipe was unsustainable’ says Marlborough Express regional editor Nicola Coburn adding that two editorial roles will go, along with two daily editions and it must be said, considerable loss of status.

So will more dailies drop a couple of days out of their week to buy time? No casualties blemish the MediaPasifika current sweep of community newspapers; in magazines there’s an amalgamation, a few ownership changes and new editors, while one or two have dropped their print version to rely on websites. Both major players have meanwhile created regionalised editorial hubs for reporters and subeditors to maximise output at lowest cost.

But — as if to relieve the gloom — digitalisation is breeding new entities. Scoop jumped in back in 2007. Advertising sales rode on free distribution of press releases and licensed corporate readership. Later, crowdfunding activated news projects — like postnatal depression and the election (I like the synergy). But founder Alastair Thompson now announces a heavily discounted ‘professional use licence’ package to hike up cash-flow in a campaign for more funds.

Newsroom is a brave newcomer, but with a similar model. Launched by top journalists Mark Jennings (Newshub for TV Three and Radio Live), and Tim Murphy (NZ Herald ex-editor), with Bernard Hickey as newsroom editor, Melanie Reid — investigations, Troy Rawhiti-Forbes — digital communities, am and pm editors Alexia Russell and Cassandra Mason, Steve Deane on sport but another seven picking up more rounds manning more ‘rooms’ — ‘viewing’, ‘living’, ‘board’ and ‘sports’ rooms with offices in Auckland and Wellington. A news service for corporate clients including ‘tailored daily emails and analysis’ costs $29/month. If you average the 15 salaries at $100k and add $200k for the offices you’ve got $1.7million to amortise. Do the math, as they say. So good luck with that.

Earlier this year PressPatron kicked off as a crowdfunding platform through which readers can make monthly or one-off contributions to their favourite online publishers. Charity, not profit. All to support newsgathering.

Trouble is there’s not much money in pure journalism no matter which way you dice and slice it.  News and advertising may have always hated each other but with a coherent community as audience they work together to provide a mutually profitable service. But beyond the community level? Go paywall or give it away? Can professional content — quality writing and photography/filming — live off its merits? Only when backed by (very)charitable trusts, it seems. Even the much-respected UK Guardian admits its fragility with pleas for financial support popping up on screens and the printed page.
David Reade

 

‘If we’re going to live as we are in a world of supply and demand, then journalists had better find a way to create a demand for good journalism’ Bill Kovach

Readers are welcome to comment.

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