Digital promises

When it comes to content, digital media has changed both our sense of scale and the nature of aggregation. The shift has happened relatively rapidly, challenging established models as it gives rise to new ones.

It's a pretty turbulent time, and it is probably natural to want to find the next model before our time with the current ones winds down. That quest for certainty shows up in Karthika Muthukumaraswamy's Huffington Post piece, "A la carte journalism: Where people (and reporters) set the agenda", in which she writes:

Setting aside the question of whether celebrities should be exploiting the masses for their pet projects, crowdfunding appears to be the way to go for most media projects.

That same quest appears in Emily Bell's recent post, "US journalism makes break with market forces", that appeared in The Guardian. Bell argues:

In a few years the non-profit news sector has gone from being seen as a temporary embarrassment for US news to a cornerstone, with dozens of organisations adopting a funding model reliant on diverse revenues. ProPublica, the Pulitzer-winning investigative unit, has had considerable impact, ditto the Texas Tribune. A Knight Foundation report on non-profit news last week saw fragility in the sustainability of the non-profit model but noted its growing significance.

While I think that crowdfunding and not-for-profit journalism have a place, it strikes me as both narrow and potentially distracting to put them on top of the pedestal just now. Getting people to pay for content has been difficult for a while. Abandoning that effort too soon begs the question about why people are not willing to pay for quality content.

I think we live in a world of smaller scale – not "communities of millions, but millions of communities" – and different approaches to aggregation. We're no longer bound by the physical format, and we can organize by author, topic or community. We can also play with formats to address the needs of different topics and the communities that are interested in them. I'd like to further test these opportunities in a range of for-profit settings.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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