The long, long, long tail of digital revenue models

Just got home after ducking out of the Journalism Leaders forum which went under the title “Why isn’t more media translating into more money for mainstream media companies?”

The panelists where Chris Anderson of ‘The Long Tail’ fame, Anton Grutzmacher of Hitwise, Peter Kirwan of the Press Gazette’s Media Money and Rick Waghorn of

Anderson couldn’t stay for the whole discussion (he was live by phone) so he got the floor for the first part of the presentation. He had a few stones to lob in the water. “We don’t use the word media anymore” and the succinct advice for the MSM (should that be the MS?”) that we need to “find the market failure in the amatuer internet” to find the areas where we can flourish.

All the talk of market forces and free-conomics and changing models caused, as Mark Comerford noted on Twitter, a huge amount of wrinkled foreheads and worried looks amongst the totally male panel”. ( #ChrisAnderson will get you the discussion). But it also seemed to cause Anderson some consternation as well.

When challenged that his ideas would cost and asked who would pay, Anderson seemed at a loss to why anyone would ask the question. Competition would sort it out. You had to compete for the market and if you had what people wanted then you would make money, isn’t that obvious? Obviuously not.

The responses seemed to range from – ‘oh, if only it was that simple’ to ‘well that’s okay if you live in tech savvy California but we have to work in the real world.’

No disrespect to the panelists, as Anderson kind of set the subject, but a pretty tired to and fro ensues and I leave early. But here are two points that struck me:

In case some of the mainstream media haven’t got this yet – “THE WEB DOES NOT OWE YOU A LIVING”.

It doesn’t care that you have been doing this for years, you have to earn your eyeballs like everyone else. Telling us that you deserve special treatment sounds a bit like a multinational bank saying it needs a handout because of the credit crunch. Cause and effect.

But in the same vein, to those who would put all their (and the public’s) eggs in the digital basket (and I constantly need to remind myself of this) – “THE AUDIENCE IS NOT LIKE YOU”.

Just because the web has revolutionised your life it isnt the solution to every problem. Take the UK, apparently “17 million citizens in the UK did not have access to a computer,” A soley digital market will not decide for them. As Mark.C so eloquently put it “#ChrisAnderson seems to think that the market *is* democracy in action. #markmedia thinks that is a pile of shite”. Quite.

I have some sympathy with Anderson’s dislike of the term media. It’s more and more redolent of a bygone age; Media is more fluid and more open and inclusive but it is also not exclusively digital and not the exclusive domain of the MSM. There is a middle ground and for the most part a lot of tech savvy ‘amateurs’ are doing very well, thanks, without too much concern for either party.

So get in amongst them. Whether it’s rediscovering the community that you thought you had lost or seeing technology where the rubber hits the road. As Paul Bradshaw and others said I’m bored of people talking. We know all this stuff already. I want to hear about people doing”

You can see the presentation via the ubertechsavvy Joanna Geary and her ever present Bambuser cam (thanks Joanna) or the official Journalism Leaders Breeze feed.

Go and be frustrated.

9 Replies to “The long, long, long tail of digital revenue models”

  1. Monetisation is THE big question now. Anderson is right though. All that new media has done is expose journalism to market forces. At last the public have a clear and accessible choice. Unfortunately, that choice might be not to consume journalism. In the UK especially, we have had effective monopolies and distribution cartels. Now we have to start from the bottom up in justifying our product to the punter. If it is good enough, if it has value, then the consumer will pay for it somehow. But first we have to earn their trust and make ourselves relevant, entertaining and useful. That will only happen when we start including the public in the process. Networked Journalism makes business sense as well as editorial and social sense.
    Charlie Beckett

  2. Good stuff Andy.

    The digital market is not the be all and end all.

    I thought the best thing to come out of last night was this concept of the so called free market sorting out the media industry.It may work in sunny California but not in the Uk.Market forces don’t work because they don’t address the needs of the members of society that require support.

    Information works the same way and I think I made the point last night of what happens to the essential information that the market doesn’t want to provide because it is not cost effective.

    And as you quite rightly say there are many people in the Uk that don’t have access to a computer,who rely on information from the traditional media patterns.

    Are we entering a new class war.Those with information and platform and those that haven’t?

  3. What no one seemed to set about challenging though in the ensuing debate was the dychotamy of the two notions of brand: on one hand there’s the LEP saying brand will save them, backed up by Hitwise who earlier proved that people actually search by ‘media’ brand – and then Rick saying he’s getting away from it all and making a living (ironically cashing in on the brand-style market forces that has given him a career for the last decade).

    I was also touched by the added irony: a debate about old skool newspaper business models by a panelist made up of a blogger, researcher and the epitomy of new-style fragmentation – myfootballwriter!

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