This is the first of 5 from our series Introducing The Newscene, leading up to our official beta launch on Friday 3rd of May. We will be releasing a new part every weekday, so watch this space & follow us.
Let’s face the truth: as a first-time founder, you make mistakes you sometimes don’t even notice. From those that I can talk about here, I think the biggest one is that we failed at convincingly building an exceptional editorial project people actually want to pay for.
But here, let’s focus on the external reasons why we stopped the venture.
Right after we manage to earn enough money to cover the cost at jrnal, I decide to spend some time with publishers. I wanted to hang out around their newsrooms and offices, discuss their business, not just to see what we can do together but to truly understand what their business is about, what are the challenges, etc.
The same things kept coming up
Publishers have serious business model issues. We all know that, but it’s far, far worse than I could have imagined.
The tech used is not suited for their business. Apart from big names with lots of resources, most publishers are cobbling together multiple tools not made for either their business or their journalistic mission.
Even if the industry is recovering from its original sin, putting their content online for free, too many publications say the exact same things with the same words, while too few publications really provide added value.
The competition today are social networks, Porn, Netflix, Spotify, Twitch, Fortnite, Youtube, etc. and viewing the staggering number of their audience, selling subscriptions requires a serious leap of changes in paradigm and the philosophy behind newsroom organisation.
As publishers’ old model is completely “disrupted”, maybe it’s time to approach their business like any other good consumer product: Serving their readers with high quality, singular products. Something served under the finest UX & branding identity.
It might also be time for publishers to consider giving readers, convenience, experiences and a seat at the table.
Apple News + disappointment
When the news of Apple’s acquisition of Texture, the so-called Netflix of news, dropped in March 2018, I got excited by the challenge. It’s not every day that you’re trying to build something and hear that the company you admire most is acquiring a competitor.
But then I had to wait another year to see what they had planned. Plot twist: Nothing impressive so far.
The fact is no one — not even Apple — will ever unleash the true potential of the platform until they have publishers and content people want to pay for. That means big names such as the NY Times, Washington Post, Le Monde FT, WSJ, The Economist, The Guardian… but it also means strong editorial projects such as Bitch, McSweeney, Mediapart, De Correspondent, Mother Jones, The Atlantic, The Athletic, The Gentlewoman etc.
We’ve failed at convincing most of those publishers; but Apple, with half a billion in budget, has failed too, so far…
Yet a Netflix-like model will be necessary for news… at some point. A reading enthusiast reads from dozens of sources per month. Even if they were very cheap, there will be subscription fatigue. Cognitively and economically, people will be able to rationalize a handful of content subscriptions at most (in addition to their music/TV subscriptions).
So yes this model makes economic and pragmatic sense. But you first need to have publications people want to pay for and like we say in French, “Bon Courage”.
“You never change things by fighting against the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete.”
Also, we can’t exclude the possibility that we just built something nobody cared for / needed or state that the execution was but that’s a whole different story and that’s roughly where I bury jrnal… RIP my beloved companion.
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