What’s next in media? Nobody knows

I must confess I’ve done some journalistically onanistic things in my time.

But reviewing a book for which I’ve written a chapter may just take the biscuit.

Nonetheless, here goes.

What's next in journalism?This week sees the official launch of What’s Next In Journalism? It’s a book edited by Margaret Simons in which “new media entrepreneurs tell their stories”.

You can find my modest contribution between pages 65 and 71. I told you it was modest.

And not just because of this book, media models are presently on my mind.

Last week, we organised the Festival of Branded Content & Entertainment. Among the most packed sessions were one looking at native advertising – from the level of interest, it’s clearly going to become an important part of the media mix.

Carnegies den logoAnd later this month I’ll be taking part in Carnegie’s Den, a project to find – and potentially fund – new business models.

But first to the book.

I must confess, I found it to be a somewhat depressing read because so few people seem to have answers.

In common, just about all of them run their outlets as passion projects first, media models second. We featured an extract from Wendy Harmer the other day: “The Hoopla is the best, most exhausting, underpaid gig I have ever had in my life.” That about sums it up.

Many of the others have found forms of grants or funding to allow them to get started, often on a part time basis only. Few seem close to a workable plan on how to fund themselves now they have an audience.

The only person with a traditional success story – involving running a good site, building an audience and monetising it primarily through advertising – is Renai LeMay’s tech site Delimiter.

That’s worked as a model to provide one person with a decent living.

But it requires decent audiences, being in the correct niche where advertisers are willing to spend money to speak to that audience and, I’m sure, an element of luck about having started at the right moment.

Our own model is not dissimilar, albeit slightly more hybrid in that it involves us building on our relationships with our audiences to also offer events and training. And certainly in our case, luck over timing played a big part.

But there are other new media success stories out there not covered by the book of course. Mamamia appears to be achieving success – and, just as important, business growth, in the female-focused niche.

Then there’s the likes of subscription newsletter Crikey and the Private Media stable.

And of course, locally we are watching the great paywall experiments led by News Corp and Fairfax Media. Personally, I think we are beginning to see increasing signs that these are not going to deliver the scale of sign-ups they need, although the lessons learned may be well applied to whatever they try next.

The frightening thing is that nobody knows what’s going to work as the next media model.

The exhilarating thing is that as old models leave the market, demand for new content eventually creates an opportunity. In the end, the market corrects itself and rewards services, including media services, that people value. But it will take a long, long time to shake down.

mark carnegieWhich brings me back to Carnegie’s Den.

It’s a project we’re a partner in, although not a commercial one.

Mark Carnegie is sitting on a media investment fund of more than $100m.

Later this month, at an event in his home in Sydney, Carnegie will be joined by adman John Singleton (who knows a bit about media investments himself, not least 2GB), Rebekah Horne (ex MySpace, now leading digital at Ten) and myself. We’ll be hearing five minute pitches on the next big media idea in front of an invited audience.

The closing date to put forward an idea – which can be drawing board stage or slightly more developed – is this Friday.

The process is fairly simple – a 500 word summary of your media idea, via this link, then finalists will get to present it on October 24. The winner gets coaching from the judges and a follow-up meeting for potential investment.

You don’t hand over any rights to your idea by participating.

Somebody will crack it. Maybe it will be you

Tim Burrowes is editor of Mumbrella




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