Reading the news and digital business models

Some thoughts on digital publishing.

There’s not enough experimentation in the news industry, especially within traditional news formats.

In the UK the i Newspaper as a format is interesting, as is the freemium business model introduced by established regional papers like the London Evening Standard and the Manchester Evening News (i.e. these are now largely free newspapers that you don’t have to pay for). We also have various subscription services, like the Times and the Sunday Times digital editions that exist behind a paywall.

When the i Newspaper (launched in 2010) was first published in the UK it felt like it was of the internet. The news summaries (matrices) at the front of each edition are much more like a newsfeed–think Facebook or the orignal 140 character limit of Twitter. As a business proposition it offers a quick summary of important or ‘headline’ content — just like we’ve come to expect with digital formats, acting like a ‘homepage’ for the news of the day in a printed edtion.

The 24 hours news cycle, always on, always rolling, is also very much a reflection of internet culture. The unlimited news feed of the internet has become ‘the news’.

The question is whether these business models and associated formats will still meet people’s expectations in the next 5–10 years? There’s also the question of how sustainable these business models are, and whether they can make enough money to still be viable.

The relationship we have with news content is changing rapidly. This year (2017) has shown us more than ever that we need effective filters for what is real news and what is fake news. This might be something that we’re willing to pay for, but it’s potentially very dangerous if we design a world where only those that can afford to pay can avoid fake news.

It seems that most physical and traditional media outlets for news and content have, at least in part, reflected internet culture and expectations up until now.

In order to meet expectations people will have in the future, we will need to design the next set of alternatives to these now established digital formats and business models.

*It’s interesting to see what publishing platforms like Medium are doing with paid subscriptions (memberships) but I expect other alternative business models to emerge.