How much is the news worth?

Gautam Mishra is finding out, with the new celebrity-free, clickbaitless inkl.

Part of our series introducing you to the fabulous speakers coming to Storyology 2017, the Walkley Foundation’s festival of media and storytelling Aug. 24–31.

Publisher Gautam Mishra has always had a gut feeling that readers valued truthful, unbiased news content.

“Our core truth was we knew people were prepared to pay for news, and we wanted to test that,” Mishra said. Paying for news ensures that high-quality content is sustainable to produce, he said. “We saw the problems with the free model — fake news and a race to the bottom. There were sensational headlines and questionable reporting.”

Gautam Mishra, former Fairfax strategy director and founder of inkl.

Mishra has been exploring new business models for the news industry for years, including during his time as a digital executive at Fairfax Media. In 2014 he went out on his own and launched inkl. Although it is often likened to a Spotify for news, Mishra says that’s not quite right. Such a beast would be unnecessary, as news publishers give away so much for free, he said. In fact, the company sees itself just as a “mobile platform for good journalism”.

The news business model is in trouble, so what happens next? Hear from Mishra and other experts at the Storyology conference this year. Find out more here.

Inkl is a boon for busy people who like to keep abreast of the news. Subscribers pay $15 a month or 10c per article for its curated content. There are no advertisements, and the news items come from 40 news sources, including the New York Times, the Guardian and Al Jazeera. While the US and the UK are the biggest markets, customers come from 184 countries including Andorra.

Mishra said that the company wanted to try to establish a value for a news item. Itunes changed the language around buying music online; before that, most people would say that an online song was free, he said. But after iTunes launched in 2001, most people would say it was worth 99c.

“We think the price of an article should be around 10c — that gives a sustainable revenue source for publishers and reporters and it’s a price that readers can pay,” he said. Inkl keeps 5c and gives the publisher 5c.

At Storyology in Sydney this August, Mishra will be on a panel about the business of journalism — how to transition to digital business models, and building a better model for journalism while maintaining its legacy.

The entrepreneur studied journalism before graduating with a business degree in Iowa and an MBA at Wharton Business School before joining a management consultancy and coming to Australia in 2008. Two years later, he began working at Fairfax Media. As strategy director, he managed the transition to a digital subscription program for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers. During this process he started to look at different business models like Amazon and Netflix — which bring suppliers to the one platform and promise quality and convenience.

Mishra left Fairfax in 2013 and launched inkl the following year. “Where we add value is that we expose multiple perspectives on the story, and you need a consortium of publishers to help you do that. And we have our own algorithms that filter out clickbait and celebrity gossip.”

But unlike Facebook, inkl doesn’t curate content based solely on what it thinks readers will like.

“inkl has a very different goal in mind for its readers. Facebook is more a dating site than a news site. It’s in the business of relationships — if you and I are friends on Facebook, it does everything it can to make our relationship stronger because that reinforces our bond.”

Its website states “we intentionally do not try to pre-empt your interests and only show you stories that we think you want. It’s very important to us that inkl provide as complete and unbiased a view of the world as it can.”

Prominence on inkl is determined by factors such as when it was published, the importance given to it by its original publisher (a story ranked #1 by the New York Times gets a higher rank), and by location (for sports and politics, local content is more relevant than international content).

With no cat videos.

Catch Gautam Mishra at Storyology in Sydney this August. Storyology is the Walkley Foundation’s festival of media and storytelling for journalists, media makers and the public.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Margot Saville’s story.