In our last post, we proposed working on six business models, but only two (online only and online lead, print follow) were really new.
Let’s leap out of the box and consider an online model that doesn’t look like a traditional newspaper. It doesn’t even look like a single business.
Say you live in a city where the daily has gone under. Your city needs to know what’s happening within its boundaries.
Now imagine a loose network of online-only start-ups. They are silos, on purpose.
CitySports just covers sports. You love sports? You’d subscribe. You sell golf balls? You’d place an ad. It’s a clean read, a clean buy, simplicity amid the online cacophony.
CityEd just covers education. You have kids in school? You’d subscribe to CityEd. You want to recruit high school grads to your college? You’d place an ad.
CityGov, CityCourts, same idea. CityEats for coverage of restaurants and grocery stores, CityBuys for consumer retail.
In each case, the websites (and associated Facebook pages and Twitter feeds) appeal to a particular segment of the city’s readers and advertisers. Each silo’s reporter(s) and editor are devoted to the beat, specialists in the topic. Each silo’s design is specific to that topic. But, and here’s where the economies of scale come in, the silos have help.
A unifying structure of shared resources floats over them all. They share a tech staff, an ad portal, a business back-end, a circulation database and a customer support team that is second to none.
They also share an upper level editorial staff that provides guidance, coordinates cross-silo journalism, and manages the coverage hit squad, which includes experts in data analysis, digital and video design, and plain old-fashioned investigative journalism. Each silo can call in the hit squad when a story calls for more effort than the silo staff can provide.
Let’s say this model survives in the marketplace. Financially, it’s a success, but how does it measure up to the traditional business model?
That question leads us right back to where this blog began.
One way to evaluate the success of any new model for news is to compare its results against the list of BENEFITS we’ve compiled here. Let’s ask ourselves, benefit by benefit, can the new model do this? Can it do that? Does it provide something better?
No matter how far we leap out of the box, no matter how far we leave the traditional newspaper business model behind, its benefits will remain an accurate measure of our success.