Chasing Sustainability on the Net : International research on 69 journalistic pure players and their business models
This report outlines how online-based journalistic startups have created their economical locker in the evolving media ecology. The research introduces the ways that startups have found sustainability in the markets of ten countries. The work is based on 69 case studies from Europe, USA and Japan.
The case analysis shows that business models can be divided into two groups. The storytelling-oriented business models are still prevalent in our findings. These are the online journalistic outlets that produce original content – news and stories for audiences. But the other group, service-oriented business models, seems to be growing. This group consists of sites that don’t try to monetize the journalistic content as such but rather focus on carving out new functionality.
The project was able to identify several revenue sources: advertising, paying for content, affiliate marketing, donations, selling data or services, organizing events, freelancing and training or selling merchandise. Where it was hard to evidence entirely new revenue sources, it was however possible to find new ways in which revenue sources have been combined or reconfigured. The report also offers practical advice for those who are planning to start their own journalistic site.
Philip John, web developer, internet consultant: “LCM started as Lichfield Blog three years ago. Later on the name was changed to Lichfield Live. Recently LCM launched also Burntwood Live. (Lichfield and Burntwood are major towns in Lichfield District, in Staffordshire, which is home to about 97 000 people.)”
Philip John also runs his own web business, Journal Local, which offers a WordPress platform designed especially hyperlocal websites.
2 limited companies: the publisher is Citizen Media Ltd and the trader is Hackney Citizen Ltd
Describe your site or business in few words.
Keith Magnum, editor-in-chief: “We publish an independent free monthly newspaper called Hackney Citizen and run a website by the same name. We distribute 10 000 copies around Hackney, a borough of North East London, in shops and cafés.
We’ve been monthly since July 2010. Before that we published quarterly, since July 2008. Initially, the website was just a holding page, probably for the first year, until about 2009 when we begun doing more frequent news online. Before that, we didn’t know about WordPress or the whole online hyperlocal scene in the UK. So it was a bit weird to suddenly find ourselves a part of it!
Aine McGuire, CMO: “Scraperwiki is a place where a community of coders and data scientists congregate to sift data. it’s also a data hub, a place for collection of information into a database and turning it into a form that people can use. Our business is ‘software as a service’.
We have a web-based platform where programmers write scripts to get, clean and analyse data sets. They can simply schedule code to run automatically, and they can reuse the structured data with our flexible API. We also have a data request service, which enables businesses to work with our data scientists and extract value from data. They can see their data being created, control access to it, and download the resulting spreadsheets.
Claire Wardle, global advocate: “Storyful is the first news agency of the social media age. The platform gives journalists the power to discover, verify and deliver the most valuable social media content. Storyful uses a unique combination of professional journalism and cutting-edge technology to separate the actionable news from the useless noise on platforms such as YouTube and Twitter.
We find and verify newsworthy content from the social web. We make this content available for our professional clients on a dashboard, daily email alerts, a private Twitter account and via access to a 24/7 email address. A few hours later the same content is used to build stories that are publicly available on Storyful.com.
It works so that we feed the dashboard with content – videos, photos, maps, everything that’s relevant. All this content has to have been verified an vetted by our journalists. Our professional clients also have access to a members-only Twitter account and they can email us requests for certain kind of content. Storyful’s clients include ABC News, the New York Times, France24, Channel4, and The Economist.
Alberto Nardelli, CEO: “Tweetminster is a news platform. We curate news and opinion around any topic, industry or market. It’s a media platform that helps people and organizations discover the most relevant content about their personal interest by dynamically analyzing and organizing in real-time what networks and experts of influence around any topic, industry or market are paying attention to. What that means translated is that we analyze what experts on anything are paying attention to. Then we organize that content and those trends in real-time.
We build technologies that identify experts and then analyze that network. We operate as a public service in politics and current affairs and we work with clients around any topic – from Formula 1 to trading in the Middle East.
Simone Pieranni, founder of China Files, explains: “China Files is a startup based in Beijing, focusing on in-depth coverage of China-related issues for Italian- and Spanish-speaking media outlets. Our business model is that of the news-agency: producing multimedia stories (text, video, pictures, interactive features) to re-sell to mainstream outlets. Currently we work with more than 30 European and South-American media outlets (print, radio, broadcasting and online). Recently we have started to offer supplementary services, too, as, for example, press roundups on China-related issues for Italian and Spanish corporations, press office consultancy for institutions (e.g. European Union, Embassies) and companies investing in China. These services are more remunerative than producing editorial content, but our main focus remains the journalistic activity.”
YouReporter is a citizen journalism website that has become a popular destination for people interested in sharing breaking news videos or pictures. Content uploaded on YouReporter.com is often re-used by big media outlets, especially during crisis events as well as for the daily coverage of local news.
Angelo Cimarosti, founder of YouReporter, explains: “We launched YouReporter in 2008, as a purely amateur initiative. I am a broadcast journalist and I have always felt frustrated by the vast amount of videos and pictures available online (it is often impossible for reporters to find them). So, together with Stefano De Nicolo (a broadcast journalist), Luca Bauccio (a lawyer) and Alessandro Coscia (a programmer/designer) we decided to launch a citizen journalism website mainly focused on visual contributions. And this was the right insight at the right time. Around 2009 in Italy we have assisted to an explosion of mobile devices with video-recording capabilities and so our website has become a popular destination for many “citizen journalists” interested in reaching a wider audience. After a 2-year start-up period (with no business plan at all), in 2010 we decided to invest more time and money in YouReporter. That was also because managing a video-centered website means that you spend a lot of money in bandwidth, hosting etc. Presently our business model is focused on free content (accessible and re-usable by whoever is interested) subsidized by advertising. Thanks to the huge amount of monthly unique visitors (1.5 million in December 2011) we are sure that advertising alone can be enough for our sustainability.”
Dijonscope is a regional online news site with a strong identity for independent journalism. It is the first online daily regional to be officially recognised as a press organisation under French authorities. The mission statement representing the work of the journalists on the site is impassioned: Inform, investigate, and criticize.
The team of Dijon-based journalists focus on quality rather than quantity, with editorial decisions being more about cutting-edge investigative or informative reporting than following the day-to-day highlights from institutes – formerly the fodder of regional printed press. Their value for readers is in creating ‘ a rigorous and independent range of information, drawn and filtered by journalists and correspondents whose intellectual integrity is uncompromising’.
A Power Magazine is a free magazine providing information of daily life especially in support of foreigners who either have interest in Japan or on a visit in Japan as, for example, international students. Their contents include information on job-hunting, house renting, and visa application, as well as Japanese culture. Those contents are so close to daily life that they have attracted the attention of foreigners who are interested in Japan, and thus expanding its influence among them.
The interviewer on characteristics of the website: ‘ Our uniqueness lies in the fact that we are providing contents not only in Japanese, but also in English, Chinese and Korean. This is out of the consideration that any foreigner who is interested in Japan can have direct access to our contents, not to mention those who are currently staying in Japan, say, as international students.