30 April 2008

UCLan Forum Debates Digital Business Models

Speakers including Web 2.0 pioneer Chris Anderson have put forward their ideas on viable business models for newspapers in the digital age.

Anderson formed part of the panel at the 9th Journalism Leaders Forum, staged by the University of Central Lancashire, which looked at the financial future for media companies.

The “Long Tail” author joined the debate via the Web from San Francisco and offered some interesting and provocative views on money matters.

Is Freemium The Future?

The freemium concept could be an alternative business model for online newspapers in the digital era, according to Anderson.

The editor-in-chief of Wired says the freemium idea could offer a direct revenue channel in addition to advertising earnings.

With freemium models, the majority of users can access services and content for free while the most active visitors pay a fee for premium features.

It is already used by several prominent websites, including photo-sharing site Flickr and web-based call service Skype.

According to Anderson, the freemium model would see news sites give away free content to 99% of users and charge the “engaged minority” of 1%.

Anderson also told delegates that newspapers need to change their attitudes towards the relationship between advertising and editorial in the digital age.

“We need to rethink our sense of an impermeable barrier between journalism and filthy lucre.”

He asserts that online consumers are “very sophisticated” and understand that adverts within editorial sections are placed there algorithmically by software systems.

Anderson says this awareness means the internet audience has “different expectations” compared to its print equivalent.

“Harness Your Readers”

Anderson is something of a crowdsourcing evangelist and suggests that future business models could involve using readers to create content.

He points out that newspapers need to harness the power of their “engaged, smart, informed, opinionated readers”.

Anderson sees this happening particularly in the area of hyperlocal news, where he envisions journalists becoming more like “community organisers, facilitators and editors” working with amateurs.

He concludes by saying it’s his job at Wired to hunt out the cleverest people who don’t work for him, harness their wisdom and help them to solve their own problems.

More Details...

Further information about the conference and its panel, which also included myfootballwriter.com founder Rick Waghorn and Hitwise representative Anton Grutzmacher, can be found at the Journalism Leaders Forum website and blog.

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