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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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8 Narrowing the focus with niche and passion content



Some news organizations are using niche content and passion power to build new revenue sources for journalism. Niche content is narrowly-focused, deep and highly-targeted. Broad and popular content should be offered free to build online traffic. But hard-to-find niche material has high value to specific groups and they are willing to pay for it. At the same time niches can be built around communities engaged intensely in an activity or special interest. This is known as “passion publishing.”

In April 2008 the owner of niche-content website sold the domain name to an unnamed buyer for a staggering $2.6 million. That’s what news organizations all over the world reported, including the BBC, Washington Post, CNET and the New Zealand Herald. Many publications couldn’t help but note that $2.6 million for site about pizza was “a lot of dough.” But those publications failed to report the follow-up – that the $2.6 million deal never actually took place. A few months after the initial publicity hoopla, it turned out, the domain name Pizza. com was quietly sold to a small Philadelphia domain-name exchange company called National A-1 Advertising for a more modest sum. To find that out, news consumers had to click onto one of the narrowly-focused news websites that covered the domain name industry, such as They had the story.

The story of and the multi-million dollar sale that never took place offers a lesson in the prevalence and importance of niche news...

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