Thursday, February 19, 2009

14 news business models: which is the best one?

Zachary M. Seward, at Nieman Journalism Lab and Alan Mutter recently came up with the cost "to sustain every American newspaper in perpetuity as non-profit organizations" - $114 billion.

Two problems:
1. This will save only the editorial staff. 2. Who says newsroom journalists have a monopoly over original journalism?

So, what models for the news business do we have at present? Here are 14 news business models to choose from:

1. Public funds investigative journalism on a case-by-case basis: e.g. [Dave Cohn's site]

2. Angel funding for investigative journalism: e.g. Propublica [funded by Craig Newmark]

3. Government funds Journalism: e.g. BBC [great work, autonomous], Prasar Bharati (India) - Not so great output due to government interference

4. A Non-profit Trust funds Journalism: e.g. The Guardian

5. Regular Donation Drives funds Journalism: e.g. NPR [Radio]

6. Small, localized, Print on demand newspapers: e.g. - aggregates from local blogs

7. Small, online only news teams [max. size 10] focused on a niche/locality: e.g. Paidcontent, Gigaom

8. A mix of free papers for young people and special editions with analysis for an older crowd

9. Subsidize serious reporting with consumer service coverage [gadgets, celebrities, lifestyles, shopping]: e.g. NYT's Lifestyle publications make the real money

10. Subsidize serious reporting with non-intrusive business line extensions: e.g. Dilbert creator Scott Adams created a computer file storage business with his character's name. Other options include being more like an ad agency for advertisers.

11. Small Newsroom of Investigative reporters, brand name bloggers and community managers, who aggregate and summarize everything else (reviews, opinions) from blogs and other sources: e.g. The Huffington Post

12. Subscription based site plus free articles: e.g.,, - all are business titles

13. iTunes type Pay for each article using micropayments.
Problems: 1. Articles are not pieces of music that people can listen repeatedly 2. Micropayments are intrusive.

14. Newspapers consortiums join forces with distributors like Google or Yahoo: Something like Yahoo Buzz plus Google Adsense.

The discerning reader will note a few overlapping ideas in the above list: small newsroom sizes, mostly online, print only when you have to, focus on original reporting.

Next: Vote for your favorite news business model for these changing times over at Bighow Poll.

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At 1:33 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing these 14 business models. I have to print them out.

make money from blogging

At 10:29 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of the above don't seem to be business models (e.g. numbers 6, 7, 8, 11), in that they don't specify where the money comes from.
How about the following revenue sources:
1. Advertising (simple or targeted)
2. Sponsorship
3. Lead generation

At 1:34 AM , Blogger Pramit Singh said...

Nicely put, but you have mentioned revenue models, not business models. I know they overlap, but my intention is to look at the news orgs in whole.

I was refering to how news operations might work in future. Expect more innovations on this front.

At 4:22 AM , Blogger Professor Kim said...

I think 15th model may emerge -- premium news services bundled into a package of services from a telecommunications, satellite or cable provider. I'm guessing that's what Cablevision might be thinking when their execs talk about putting Newsday behind a pay wall.

At 4:18 PM , Blogger Michael Stoll said...

There's another I'm working on with colleagues in San Francisco. It's similar to the NPR nonprofit model, but it includes print newspapers as membership benefits for a local community. That makes it a hybrid sales/philanthropy revenue stream, without resorting to ads. See

At 3:22 AM , Anonymous Jo Jordan said...

Execellent - good ideas for other businesses too.

Just stumbled it.


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