From the invention of the printing press to the advent of the internet, emerging technologies have continued to revolutionize the spread of information. As the internet has democratized information availability, outlets and publications have been tasked with finding ways to sustainably fund their journalistic work and continue bringing valuable information to their readers. On our Coffee with a Journalist podcast, we speak with journalists from leading publications to learn about their views on the writing process, managing media relations, and the future of journalism. One common take many journalists have on journalism’s future boils down to its ability to fund itself.
Here are what 3 journalists had to say about funding the future of journalism:
Whether you are a freelance journalist or part of a publication’s team, journalists all around have felt the effects of many organizations struggling to fund media outlets. Freelance journalist and frequent Fast Company contributor, Rob Pegoraro, affirms this observation saying, “it’s a real mess. We have this problem where we used to know exactly how to make money, you write something that people want to read, you stick ads next to it, you charge people to run those ads.”
He continues, “They only know that you have this many readers, and there’s no real targeting, there was no accountability. Now, we have that targeting and that accountability, and it’s getting worse and worse for publications all the time.”
Kate Clark, VC and Startup Reporter at the fully-paywalled online publication The Information, agrees as she notes, “I think we’ve seen a lot of media companies really struggle and some have folded and I think hopefully the worst of the COVID-related layoffs in media is done. I mean, we don’t know what’s coming, but I hope that we start to see more new companies.”
As this funding problem is clearly top-of-mind for journalists and outlets alike, many solutions have been proposed to counteract this industry shift. Rob Pegoraro and Kate Clark both have seen actions taken by outlets to capture the reader and fund their work. Rob says, “ I like the idea of member supported journalism, interesting sponsorship deals, things that are not necessarily tied to getting a lot of data about your audience and monetizing it.”
Kate also comments saying, “of course subscription models. You’ve seen everyone shift to subscription, like Fortune. I used to read Fortune all the time and I’m not a subscriber because I have a lot of other subscriptions and it’s just not a priority. So now I don’t read it at all, but I think it’s great. I mean, I’m so all for the pivot to subscription because I understand how that works and it’s necessary.”
Kate also gives an interesting insight into what journalists themselves are doing to maneuver this uncertain shift. One trend she has been seeing lately is that of journalists leaving a publication to pursue their own independent newsletters.
When first asked about the future of journalism, Kate said, “I think newsletters are the first thing that comes to mind. So I do… I mean, everybody seems to be talking about this lately. They think that top reporters at certain outlets are going to leave and do their own thing. Taylor Lorenz is a great example. I think people expect she’s going to start her own newsletter, which would be a subscription model and she would make money as an independent.”
She continues, “I don’t think that as many people are going to actually do that as others think. I do think a lot of reporters do want to work with legacy brands or even more new additions like The Information, just because of the credibility associated, especially if you’re building out your career still like I am.”
As journalists and outlets alike tackle this up-hill battle, one this is certain: there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Ben Schiller, CoinDesk’s Features and Opinions Managing Editor, echoes this sentiment saying, “Going forward, I think you have to constantly rescale and retool and constantly be looking at the market to see how you can fit in.”
He continues noting, “I do think there are businesses out there that have shown that you can make money and be successful like Axios, for instance. They have a massive audience now and they went off and did this strange newsletter first model, which some people thought was crazy at the time. Why don’t they have a website? Sort of thing. But I think they’ve really proven that if you innovate and you really cater to what people want rather than what you think people should need, then you can be successful.” Overall, it will be an interesting case study to watch as industry players discover ways to push into journalism’s future.
Whether you are a large news outlet or a small startup, funding is fundamental. For PR pros, announcing a client’s funding can be a great move for exposure. Download our Pitch Template: Funding Announcement for everything you need to get started!
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