Democracies are fragile. If we want them to live and prosper, we must support their pillars. And one of them is currently under attack: journalism.

Beyond Fake News

It’s not the latest fake news epidemic that threats journalism. It is actually the other way around. Journalism is under threat and this has left the door wide open for fake news.

No, it’s not a conspiracy. The problem with journalism is financial.

With the advent of the internet, the business model of the old news organizations collapsed. Attempts to adjust to the new era have nor provided a general replacement, despite eventual success here and there.

The root of the problem is advertising. Gone are the days of the expensive full page ads. Internet does not offer something similar. And when it does, it brings in much less.

Internet ads cannot sustain adequately staffed, investigative, unbiased news teams. That’s why paywalls are on the rise among media companies. But a subscription is roughly equivalent to the newspaper price on the street, if we take out the paper costs. It was not the newspaper, the actual paper, sales that drove the income of the news outlets. It was advertising.

So, to save journalism, a new news business model is required. A business model that can generate enough revenues for news organization to thrive and prosper.

Enter the aggregator

If you ask those who continue to read the news (and care about content quality), where do they get them from, the most probable answer will be something like Flipboard. That is, not from specific “old” news brands directly.

But if this is what people like and people do, this where the monetization lies hidden.

Drawing parallels

Does this ring a bell? Certainly. We all have experienced something similar with the music industry. People don’t buy records or CD’s anymore (although the LP is making a come back, lately).

The iPod opened the way to buying single songs.And, then, came Pandora and the Spotify and their like, where you buy nothing, you own nothing, yet you can listen endlessly and at a very low cost.

A Spotify for news

Imagine a service which would be connected to all the major news organizations. Content would be categorised and served on demand much like in Flipboard. With one caveat. The content would not be free. It would require a subscription.

Another paywall? Yes. But with a difference. Paying for what one actually consumes. Proportionally.

Measuring readability is easy. And can provide the basis for splitting the subscription proceeds. So, the news orgs would continue to compete for capturing a greater audience within such an aggregator, but through other means.

What’s the difference?

… you might ask. It’s the psychology, stupid!

No hard facts here, but such a model can potentially attract a much bigger subscription base than the total aggregate of all newspaper subscribers.

Let me relate you my personal experience. In the past year, I bought subscriptions to two major publications. After a few months, I discontinued both, not because I was not satisfied with the content. On the contrary. I discontinued because I felt I did not consume enough of this content.

Why so? Because skimming content that superficially came my way through social media, I was tempted to jump here and there. But this innocent act of betrayal to my subscriptions, limited my available time. And I ended up feeling that I paid for something I was not making use of.

If the flitting behavior is our inherent preference, it should be the new black to. It should be the attitude we feel comfortable to pay for.

Is there an interested entrepreneur among my readers? Hey, you! You have a potential client here.