Wednesday, December 16, 2009

For some publishers "brother can you spare a dime" is the new sales pitch

Is charity a business model? One would get that impression reading some of the stories that have appeared today.

There seems to be a common theme in some of today's media stories: Media Matters . . . raised roughly $10 million in 2009; this quote contained in a Times story on tablet readers "We all kind of regret that our ancestors gave away the magazine for too little money,” Mr. Granger said; and finally this one Herald to Online Users: Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? Paper taking donations for Web content (believe it or not, I wrote my headline before seeing that one).

SustainableJournalism.org had a very good interview with Michael Schudson yesterday concerning the future of journalism. His views seem very well reasoned, especially his optimism concerning New Media. Mr. Schudson also voiced some thoughts about what would support the new journalism -- philanthropy and government were mentioned, though I doubt he thought they would be the exclusive sources of support. But really, is this a good model for publishers to pursue? or is this coming form a journalism perspective?

(Looking at the Voice of San Diego site what grabs your attention? For me, it is the "Donate Now" button as well as the About Us page where the staff includes a Director of Development, in charge of fundraising, and a Corporate Sponsorship Coordinator -- but no Advertising Director.)

The good news is that I believe most major publishers have moved beyond free, and are now ready to admit that they must again start driving revenue -- the days of cut-cut-cut may not be over as many owners still have not learned that this is a dead-end solution -- but creating new revenue channels is a must if they are to have a sustainable (if I may borrow that word) business.

The question is where will this new money come from? Advertising? Subscriptions? Apps? Devices? The answer remains all of them as publishers continue to experiment.

The New Year, though, will provide many answers as the market gets hit with new media readers, apps and . . . pleas for charitable contributions.

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