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Funding Journalism in the Digital Age

Business Models, Strategies, Issues and Trends

Jeff Kaye and Stephen Quinn

The news media play a vital role in keeping the public informed and maintaining democratic processes. But that essential function has come under threat as emerging technologies and changing social trends, sped up by global economic turmoil, have disrupted traditional business models and practices, creating a financial crisis. Quality journalism is expensive to produce – so how will it survive as current sources of revenue shrink? Funding Journalism in the Digital Age not only explores the current challenges, but also provides a comprehensive look at business models and strategies that could sustain the news industry as it makes the transition from print and broadcast distribution to primarily digital platforms. The authors bring widespread international journalism experience to provide a global perspective on how news organizations are evolving, investigating innovative commercial projects in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Norway, South Korea, Singapore and elsewhere.
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3 Current journalism business models – new ways to support traditional revenue streams



This chapter sets the scene before we explore new business model options in later chapters. It describes a range of models that media companies have employed with varying degrees of success. It begins by exploring paid content, and then looks in detail at aggregation, search engine optimization, hyperlocal and dayparting strategies. The chapter concludes with an analysis of what happened with classified advertising and examines the emerging model of distributed media.

The realization that traditional business models and strategies to support journalism will no longer be sufficient in the digital age has resulted in new, increasingly desperate, attempts to find extra revenue streams. Gathering, packaging and disseminating the news is expensive. Some strategies, such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and premium content creation, have been aimed at finding new ways to bolster the longtime mainstays of advertising and subscriptions. Other efforts have involved creating new products that readers will be willing to pay for, such as personalized information created through database manipulation.

The Holy Grail for online news providers is the elusive paid content model – getting readers to pay for news online as they have for print. But that has proved difficult, if not impossible. Online readers have made it clear – so far, anyway, that they will not pay for information they are accustomed to getting for free. Surveys and marketplace experimentation have borne this out.

Consumers are not entirely averse to paying for content. As Slate editor-at-large Jack Shafer pointed...

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