In Business Model Debate, Don’t Lose Sight of Journalism
Dec. 29, 2009
Last night I entered a David vs. Goliath debate, and by no means did I slay the Big Guy on this occasion (as usual). We discussed the usefulness and benefit from a business perspective of such web tools as Cover It Live and Live Stream.
While I quickly realized the benefit of a debate that works my brain so much, I was also frustrated. Goliath wanted to know the monetary benefit of these services. Why stream a town meeting or a high school basketball game? What is the rate of investment on using these? While I found some hard figures to try to make my case for these tools I’ve used for the past few years, it boils down to whether advertising will pick up on the Internet.
But then I remembered something vitally important. I’m a (working?) journalist, not a business guy. As a journalist, all I have to defend these services on is their journalistic value, not their monetary value. The business department of a news media needs to concern itself with how much to charge for an ad on a stream cast between breaks or before it starts. These tools allow for community interaction (CIL is based on user comments, while Live Stream has a chat feature), and provide a service. While high school basketball isn’t pertinent to the democratic process of a town, meetings of the council or board of trustees are.
As a freelancer for Newsday, I’ve been to my fair share of crazy village meetings where rooms are packed and tensions are high. I always wondered why the whole village doesn’t turn out for some of these meetings that concern their kids, crime and taxes, but perhaps they don’t know what is happening or can’t leave the house. Stream casting meetings makes city council’s hold meetings in the public and accountable to people in an online world, not just to those sitting on uncomfortable wooden benches.
These live web tools are for the betterment of journalism and the betterment of the community we as journalists serve. It should be our responsibility to learn and utilize these to the best of our ability.
That’s for established local media. And, as any decent debater would do, I’ll anticipate Goliath’s counterargument. What about start-ups run by journalists that lack a business department, and therefore the journalists need to act as the business leaders too?
Unless the start-up is beginning in a dark corner of the world (or northern Maine), there is a challenging media outlet in its coverage area. Simply covering town hall meetings and high school basketball with pictures and text won’t cut it. Unless the reporters were head-hunted from the competitor, their contacts and sources won’t be as good as the established outlet in town. Start-ups need to do something to distinguish itself from the status quo. Providing extra, and inexpensive services to its general public will slowly pull the community away from the established outlet. Instead of only hearing about bickering at the town meeting the next day, hear some of the good debate that occurs. Watch the post-game press conference with coaches and player interviews. See instant highlights. Start-ups need to break the mold (and be bold).
In fact, to join Web 3.0 and the 21st century (and the new decade), every news outlet should look to break the mold.