Journalism

Ten resources on news business models

Benoit Wirz, Director of Business Consulting at Knight Foundation

Recently, a colleague circulated a request for good fact-and-research-based sources examining the business model of traditional newspapers in comparison to 21st century digital alternatives.

With the pace of change in media being as formidable as it is, there is no single source for this kind of information.  But as people increasingly look online for information and newspaper print revenues continue to decline (-8% in 2010), the question remains open and vital.

What follows are some of the sources which Knight staff and University of North Carolina Knight Journalism Chair Penelope Abernathy look to in thinking about this topic. Professor Abernathy’s 2009 paper on the rise and fall of mass media is appended here and an update is expected shortly.

Media Focused Books:

Media Ownership and Concentration in America (2009, Eli M. Noam) is a classic economist’s look at 10 industry segments.  Chapter 1, 8 and 20 all deal with historic and changing newspaper economics.

Managing Media Companies 2nd Ed. (2009, Annet Aris & Jacques Bughin) has great global case studies of media companies making the transition to digital. The Welt Group and Schibsted cases are most relevant.

All the News That’s Fit to Sell (2006, James Hamilton) is one of the few books to look at supply and demand for news that has historically been covered by newspapers.  Chapters 5 and 7 are most relevant.

Penelope Abernathy, University of North Carolina Knight Journalism Chair

The Curse of the Media Mogul (2009, Jonathan Knee) gives a Wall Street view of newspapers (tucked inside a long missive on the perils of media conglomerates).  Chapters 4, 5 and 10 are worth reading.

Media Economics: Applying Economics to New and Traditional Media (2004, Colin Hoskins, Stuart M. McFadyen, Adam Finn) is somewhat outdated and dense.  But Chapter 10, on pricing and market segmentation, is still relevant — especially as newspapers look to new pricing models.

C-Scape: Conquer the Forces Changing Business Today (2010, Larry Kramer) is written by a journalist turned entrepreneur about how to deal with change in the media landscape and beyond.

The Elements of Journalism (2001, Bill Kovach) offers a look at the fundamentals of  journalism.

Business Books:

Seven Strategy Questions, (2010, Robert Simons) poses seven questions any newspaper publisher or editor should ask periodically.

Producing Open Source Software (2010, Karl Fogel) is a great intro to how open source models work (more for software than for content driven media, but the two are coming much closer together).

The Innovator’s Dilemma (2001, Clayton Christensen) explains how it is that established companies, in striving to excel, completely miss the boat on innovations that destroy them.

Current Web Sites:

There is a vast array of high quality reporting online on what is happening to the media industry, and so it would be impossible to list anything comprehensive.

That said, a few sources that focus squarely on this issue include: Paid ContentGigaOmNeiman Journalism Lab and Media Shift, with a special mention to Ken Doctor’, Newsonomics website, which focuses–in a longer form format than is customary on the web–on what is happening from a business perspective and what comes next.