Collaborative revenue capture: an emerging business model for journalism?

The business model of journalism has gone through shaky times. From panic shoehorning of content from print to online, to 24 hour newsrooms and mobile first strategies. Most have been driven by the question of money: how can we make it? How can we make more?

An emerging business model for journalism would appear to be around collaborative revenue capture. This new term is proposed to represent any steps taken by media to pool their content or work with one another rather than against. This could be shared paywalls, advertising networks, shared print distribution, or cooperative news organisations. Here are some examples:

Piano Media, a cross-publication model, where pooled premium content from different media outlets is set behind a paywall, initially launched in Slovenia and Slovakia.

Diversity, an online advertising network that pools many media sites together into one global advertising network of standard advertising formats and sizes, thus creating a potential global audience reach for advertisers.

Newsfixed, a commissioning network connecting contributing journalists with bespoke commissions sustaining relationships between stories. They also work on collaborative commissioning, using their network to help journalists in the most fragile and remote of places work in concert with one another (from one area of Baghdad and beyond, for example) allowing for commissions they would not have otherwise got.

Blendle, a news startup from the Netherlands that describes itself as the “iTunes for journalism”. It allows readers to browse and read content on a per-article basis. It has contracts with most big newspaper and magazine publishers in the Netherlands and Belgium and recently signed a deal with the publisher of the Economist. Articles cost €0.20 on average and publishers keep 70% of revenue

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) is the world’s foremost alliance of public service media (PSM) with 73 Members in 56 countries in Europe and 36 Associate Members in Asia, Africa and the Americas.

Contributoria, a member-supported, crowdfunding, collaborative writing platform

Wechat, cattle hurders are using the mobile chat service in the Inner Mongolia region to advertise the sale of livestock or find missing animals. A tour of WeChat’s features, reveals video chats, group conversations, innovative friend-finder features and highly effective QR codes. An online payment system powers a frenetic marketplace. WeChat also offers a payment system that connects users’ bank accounts to apps for all kinds of online and offline transactions

Banyan Project, a news cooperative owned by the community it covers

Hebe media recently moved to place their Leeds City Talking publication inside the Yorkshire Post — allowing the Yorkshire Post sales team to take charge of selling the advertising. This seems like a collaboration in the making. What Yorkshire Post gains is a great product and community, tapping into an audience that otherwise eluded them. What Hebe media gain is piggybacking on distribution, and a sales team. Only time will tell if it turns out to be more of a sub contract, or even an exit strategy.

An open data fund. The announcement that the time is right for an open data fund could not be more true. What this is, or what form it takes, is yet to be fleshed out. But the concept could be developed for collaborative revenue capture. If media organisations chose to work together to pool resources around data, rather than work in competition, in order to generate revenues around that, I would class this as collaborative revenue capture.

Media organisations pooling their teams to bid for funding and/or research and development. Will it be so far away that Johnston Press and Trinity Mirror pool their teams around topics or campaigns in order to generate revenue? Further evidence includes the collaboration with the New York Times, Washington Post and Mozilla, announced in June, to build a bespoke commenting platform. “We collaborated and now we are trying to build it on our own with a grant from the Knight Foundation,” he said, “with an agreement that we’ll open source it when we’re done. “If we pool our resources we can get it done,” he said.

The trend for collaboration among and across media echos the wider shift across society to work as one, whether that is people offer their homes via a Google doc, Reddit users literally inundated Boston with pizza, or Google’s person finder kicks in with the ability to help find who’s where or of course crowdfunding and the connections that brings.

Yet there seem to be more unanswered questions than answers. What is collaborative revenue capture, if anything new at all? What is needed to make it work? What are the motivations behind those media pooling resources or collaborating? In what ways is this trend new? What are the risks or barriers?

At the Media Innovation Studio we are proposing a series of methodologies to probe into this a little deeper.

1) a workshop on collaborative revenue capture for exiled media. Taking one of the most challenging sectors of the media market, we will look at what collaborative approaches could be deployed to help exiled media. With the backdrop of distorted markets, day to day operational challenges, cash-strapped media and various political and language barriers this is possibly one of the hardest sectors in which to propose a collaborative approach. However early studies suggest ad networks to be working. Could more moves be added to generate revenues across the media, rather than individually?

2) a collaborative revenue installation. We are hoping to bring news from multiple media organisations into a physical installation, with which users and consumers can interact. We will test revenue capture around the artefact in a media carnival style to see how rendering news content from a pool of providers impacts on production and consumption.

3) a report and case study analysis. As an emerging trend, it is imperative that a more concrete assessment of collaborative revenue capture be undertaken. It is hoped that in supporting the grey literature around this field we can expose and articulate what collaborative revenue capture is, and could be.