The internet has drained advertising away from the preserve of the traditional newspapers. Journalism used to be funded by a thick bed of personals, recruitment display and glossy brand establishment adverts. Most of them are gone and the traditional press has been haemorrhaging money and journalists.
This is particularly true of the Scottish press – the Scotsman is a mere shadow of its former self.
The new gods, the Google’s and Facebook’s hoover up the money and have set themselves up as the publishers for the worlds news. This hasn’t worked out well. The share of the advertising loot is so rigged in their direction that it turns out fake news is the only news with a sustainable business model for them. It is easy to knock up journalism-free articles that press emotional hot buttons and that is cheap enough for you to make money on the scraps the internet giants throw you.
It turns out the world needs journalists like the world needs bees – as everyone has become abundantly aware since the election of Mr Trump.
But, as the brief crisis of Bella Caledonia showed, merely wanting to replace the ‘mainstream media’ isn’t enough – you need sustainable business models – bills to be paid, journalists need to put the food on the table.
Some big newspaper groups have found working business models – the Spectator is in rude health, the Times Group is emerging as a powerhouse in the Scottish press. But be under no illusion their ‘business models’ are built on strong product: smart journos, good writing, excellent editing and sharp production practices.
This twin crisis of the traditional press and the existing social media then is an opportunity. If new business models can be found (think of the Ferret or Common Space) and these are sustainable, expandable, exportable – then we have the seeds of new media organisations: global, profitable and influential.
The Edinburgh tech sector went from being an unprepossessing puddle to world class by ruthlessly sharing ideas and expertise, being wildly ambitious (even whilst being rubbish) and then improving, improving, improving.
Why would anyone organise a political conference on business models for digital media
Nobody Knows What They Are Doing — Business Models For New Media In Scotland is a conference to address these issues – taking place in Glasgow on Saturday 25th March. It is for people who work in politics and new media and those who think they matter. Come along help shape the future.