Got into the #cfund discussion this morning and early this afternoon. Two impressions: (1) For a guy who says he knows nothing about business, I find myself in business-related discussions all too often; and (2) if today’s chat was any indication, this “how do we fund journalism” debate could end up lasting longer than the industry itself.
That’s not to knock the debate — I applaud Alexandre for putting it together and I think it’s absolutely essential to have these discussions. But we’re getting to the point where we need to stop talking and start throwing things at the wall to see what sticks. Easy for me to say, since it’s not my money on the line.
I’ll let you fish through the Twitter results to read my specific comments, but one of the bigger points I tried to make was that it’s pretty clear no one wants to pay for news, so we should just let it be free and find another way to make money. OK, what’s that other way? A couple ideas:
• “Let the market handle it” — that is, do nothing, let the journalist ranks get shaved down to the bone and let those remaining cull information from crowdsourcing and citizen journalism to fill the feeds. (I guess this model could be called “don’t make money.”)
• “The delivery method is worth more than the product” — something I mentioned to @mind_booster in the iPods/iTunes discussion. Little 99-cent songs don’t make Apple a hell of a lot of money, but iPods do (@vitorcunha argued iTunes may in fact make a ton of money, but my point stands — $300 iPods bring in more than $0.99 singles). I don’t think this means newspapers get into the Kindle or iPhone industry, I just think it means maybe those who really believe in journalism invest their money elsewhere and use some of the profit to fund news. If one of those people turns out to be a huge corporation (Microsoft, Starbucks, etc.) who cares? The bias will be pretty easy to spot. And it’s not like media companies and news brands don’t already have this problem via the advertising model.
Also — as advertised — a crazy idea:
Maybe supply and demand even things out eventually. Maybe as print dies and journalism declines, the curmudgeons prove partially right and we start to find out how much CNN and the Web scrape from print. Maybe then something like spot.us takes off. Or maybe the public just demands more investigative/traditional news and news brands start to rise again. (For those of you about to hurl insults, I was already scolded for this.)
The fact is, I don’t know. Like I said: Someone needs to try something.
Anyone out there willing?