Future Business Models of Online Media

“Digital is as different from print and television as print and television is from each other, and folks are barely starting to understand that”, I heard Henry Blodget, the Editor-In-Chief of Business Insider, says in a discussion with Vox Media and The Times.
Business models of journalism

The shape of media is changing as users shift from desktop to mobile. Today content providers need to focus on different formats, shorter stories and new monetisation models. With the viral consumption of online media I believe we will see a future of new emerging business models among the online media players, and a natural question for many will be:“how can we make sure that we get across with the story we actually want to get across with to the audience?”

Adapting to the digital generation

We live in a viral ‘buzzfeed’ era and sometimes I feel overwhelmed when trying to consume the most relevant content trending my feed. There is always something new and exciting and I never run out of well written curated content. We want to be continuously updated at all time, but sometimes I need to break out to avoid a viral fatigue.

As a writer, social media is an incredible source for distribution and consumption of media, but it is hard to differentiate among all the players. Jim Bankoff, CEO of Vox Media said:“One thing is that you have a new digital generation who prefers to read content driven by brands that are natively digital, written by talents that are natural digital writers.”

I agree that the format and length of stories play an important role because we today want information to be on-demand, on the go and to-the-point. However, I still have some trustworthy homepages (read: free press) that I occasionally return to when I want to read reliable news.

Many media players call this period the golden age for digital journalism, but with a hub of competing players with a constant need to curate new content, I question how companies will continue to build and monetize on their brand?

Brand building in the viral buzzfeed era

Henry Blogdet explains brand as such: “Homepage is more of a stream. Content that you want to consume and engage with instead of randomized content … before people would say: you’ve gotta figure out how to imprison the people on your site, but thing is, it is a terrible idea! Internet is the distribution channel.”

Jim Bankoff explains it this way: “People still go to good homepages because they have affiliated with the brand. If they have discovered content and they like it, they will go to our webpage and then we will get them as our customers … What we find is that marketers want to act like publishers in a way that they need to build in order to brand, they need to tell a story, they need to create a mythology around their product. How do they do that? They are creating content and makes sure that content finds its audience. What do we do? Exactly that. Thus we can now apply the processes that have helped us become a big media company to help marketers as well.”

90% of Norway’s population uses the National broadcast channel on a daily basis. However, the service is dependent on license fees to keep the service free from advertisements. As media companies today become more and more dependent on advertisers, the increasing percentage of marketed content makes me question whether or not I will be able to consume ‘free press’ articles in the future. As Jimmy Maymann from Huffington post predicts 50% of their content will be sponsored content in some time, it becomes vital to dig deeper into the changing role of advertisements.

The changing role of advertising

“There is a huge amount of advertising money out there, and a huge amount of it is going into programmatic. It is a huge advantage for them and it removes a lot of hassle for us, because we are not trying to protect prices that are the old analogue of print prices, thus the model works for us,“ says Henry Blodget from Business Insider.

However, David Carr from the NY Times sees it in a different way: “What buzzfeed does is taking the inefficiency out of the system. And in NY Times we would name that inefficiency ‘profit’.”

According to Mike McCue from Flipboard, marketers buy predominantly one out of two things:

1. Scale and reach, or
2. An initial audience

Content marketing and storytelling is growing. We create content and then target its audience. Mike McCue adds: “ There will be algorithmic curation as well as human curation. People should be able to pick up and share great curated information.”

With the ability to personalize and target audiences media players can now offer more efficient pricing models to advertisers. However, as the pricing models become more effective this will also require more efficient content production and distribution for the publishers, thus media players all over the world are now trying to look at more effective models to monetize on their brand.

The opportunity window

Jimmy Maymann and Mike McCue predicts that the most successful media players will be the ones that are most able to target, repackage and program creative content when the audience is there.

Mike McCue explains: “If you think about the world we are moving to as a network of people they may or may not know that your publication exists. You design an article to be read and consumed by specific audiences and repackaged in a lot of different ways. That applies to your business model as well, because you don’t want people to be dependent on coming to your web page.”

Promising startups aiming to disrupt

Several startups are now focusing on efficiency in terms of storytelling, content marketing, branding, native content, marketing, pricing and distribution. I met some promising new ventures in journalism at the Web SUMMIT and some interesting new business models are:

  • Crowdsourced payment (groupon model) for in-depth articles (rapport.fi, etsuri)
  • Personalized mobile news aggregators (Zycks app, Newsanglr, Dashbook, Etalia, brickflow, lekiosk)
  • Branded social open spaces (shore.li)
  • Crowdsourced and location based news (nunki, storyhunter, newstag)
  • Targeting for reach and scale (newsatme.com, 8bit, feedspy, wordlift, buzzfeed)

David Bauer just visited Trondheim and he has compiled a whole lot of new players at (http://www.davidbauer.ch/2013/10/20/an-unfinished-list-of-ventures-in-journalism-you-should-be-watching-and-why/)

The last few months I have helped to write some stories for the news aggregation site Trondheim Tech, a site compiling regional news within technology and innovation, and I clearly see a need for innovative monetizing models in the field. I believe there are several ways to differentiate and I believe we will see more and more niche media companies emerging in the future. Someone still needs to write the story and someone needs to think outside the box.

What do you think?

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