26
Feb
09

The End Game Begins (Finally)

Newspapers are folding in droves. And that raises a real challenge for those of us who leverage the news media to reach the American public.

If there are no newspapers to pitch to, how are we are going to publicize our stories?

Today the Rocky Mountain News announced that Friday will be its last day on the news racks. And earlier this year the Seattle Post-Intelligencer said it was calling it quits.

But the big shocker came earlier this week when the Chron announced it might shutter its doors. Both the Rocky and the PI print in two-paper towns, and the collapse of two-paper towns has been going on for a while now. But San Francisco is a one-paper town, and if the Chron folds the city would be without a legitimate daily newspaper.

While the digital world has enormous reach, to date the easiest way to get content into the digital world has often been the old-fashioned way: pitch a story to a newspaper or wire service, and after it runs watch the blogs pick it up and run with it. There are, of course, many ways to help push that story around the blogosphere, but one of the best ways to get through the digital door in the first place has been through the traditional media.

The open secret of the digital media world is that it’s been subsidized by the traditional media which supplies the oxygen that the blogosphere breathes. If you want to put a number on that subsidy you might total the losses racked up by the mainstream media since the advent of the digital media world – and that runs into the billions of dollars.

Without the traditional news media, where will news stories come from? Someone has to write, edit and stand by the stories, and to date the only way to get anyone to do all that has been to pay them.

So now the hunt is on, in earnest, for a new “business model.”

There’s all kind of ideas out there, from crowd sourced news outlets to micro-payments.

I’m not feelin’ micropayments, it seems like a last gasp effort to shoehorn the old model into the new reality. But crowd-sourcing seems to be following the strategy that best fits in with the way the new digital world works: DIY.

However, for my money, i think the future will be the resurrection of ideological news outlets, news outlets sponsored by someone with an agenda, e.g. foundations or advocacy coalitions. As Scoop Nisker used to say, “if you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own.”

[Not to say that the old-guard corporate news media doesn’t have an agenda – in fact one of the great snow jobs in history is the notion of “objective” journalism, an idea lovingly fostered by the corporate media to help brand it’s product.]

Interestingly, way way back in the day newspapers in the U.S. proudly wore their politics on their sleeve, and in Europe many outlets still differentiate themselves not by geography (i.e. “media market”) but by ideology.

Here in the states, there is already there is an emerging crowd of mission-driven news outlets backed by dollars with an agenda. Check out Environmental News Service, Public News Service, Environmental Health News, The Real News Network, among others.

Social media, too, will be a cornerstone of communication campaigns of the future. The beautiful thing about Facebook is that it sorts and groups audiences for you. All you have to do is join-in and reach out.

Increasingly in the future, the way to get you news out into the world will be to do it yourself.

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