Monday, March 16, 2009

Elephant Diaries: PB & J

Last time I talked about newspapers, I talked about comics, and the contrast between webcomic content (a comic) and webcomic revenue (income from selling t-shirts). Reader Kristil expanded on that, wondering if this sort of divorcing of News Content from News Revenues could work more broadly for journalism. Here's what she has to say, in full:
I've been a while getting back to respond to you, mainly because I was trying to come up with a new business model for online journalism. Ha, kidding. Sort of.

I thought it would be nice to post the link here about some things that newspapers are trying, which I originally sent you on Twitter. By the way, I so want to work for Duo someday.

It seems that The Guardian has hit on a working model of the inkling I was having after I posted here; maybe newspapers can offer another product besides the news. And so now my thought is, “Okay, but what goes with the news better than online dating?” Are dating sites and in-depth coverage truly the next PB&J? Feel free to tell me if that seems snotty.

I heard a piece on NPR recently about new nonprofit and shoestring wire services. While I am loathe to link to that link hog, NPR, I’ll do it anyway. Actually, while looking for that link, I turned up a few other good pieces and blog that I’m definitely going to start reading by Jim Romenesko. I suppose that an endowment is one way to add another news service to the mix, but it should only be one of many tools in the toolkit.

One more thing. I read an article some time last year about Chinese web design that mentioned a Chinese business practice called Quanxi. Sorry, I’ve looked for the link and can’t find it. In a nutshell, it is extensive networking with potential customers and business partners before doing business. The example that was given was an auction site in China that had no plans to charge for its service until late 2009. This reminds me of companies using blogs to contribute to online communities, which in turn brings them “inbound leads.” But if a news site is all blog and no purchase, what then? What is the income generating complement to news content? I hope it’s not advertising, or paid content, because people are resisting those, don’t you think?
So, readers, what do you think? (FWIW I think it's a pretty clever idea, but I'm not sure it's all that different from how newspaper classifieds worked before Craigslist. Maybe the truly national papers like the NYT can do it, but I'm hesitant to say it'll save the local dailies. Awesome t-shirts, on the other hand...)

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