I just completed a mind-expanding week at the Knight Center for Digital Media in Berkeley and was exposed to five programs — Photoshop, FinalCut Pro, GarageBand, Soundslides and Flash — along with 19 other journalists and I only want to quarrel with one point I heard during six long days of training: I think journalists have to invent ethical new ways to make money from their work. A remark to the contrary at the end of the session reminded me how profound a cultural revolution journalism will have to experience to re-establish its support system. Professional journalists have eschewed money-making. Someone else did that; it was up to ad sales or classifieds or circulation. But those systems are eroding. If journalists don’t re-invent ways to get paid for their services they are doomed to extinction. So it seems to me.
I just spent a mind-expanding week at the Knight Center for Digital Media in Berkeley and was exposed to five programs — Photoshop, FinalCut Pro, GarageBand, Soundslides and Flash — along with 19 other journalists. I am not quick on the uptake. I grasped only a small amount of what was thrown at me by a patient training crew. But I did produce a Soundslide story and observed or assisted in a slew of other tasks. I got over my fear of video editing and realized that basic Flash was within my grasp. I have the confidence to get the refreshers and advanced training that I would need to become a proficient multimedia journalist. I understand how to let the story choose its media, and have at least some sense of how to get the story done.
It was the longest six long days of training I’ve had in a good long while. And great fund. Only one point I heard caused me to disagree. I think journalists have to invent (ethical) new ways to make money. A remark to the contrary at the end of the session is what prompted me to disagree. Professional journalists used to look down money-making. Someone else did that; ad sales or classifieds or circulation. But the old systems are eroding. If journalists don’t invent ways to get paid for their services they are doomed to extinction. Or so it seems to me.
Kevin Kelly has a lovely and encouraging idea for creative people wondering how to make a living from their talent or craft. It only takes 1,000 True Fans – people willing to spend $100 a year on your stuff – to gross $100,000. Back out some expenses and that’s enough to make a modest living or renumerative hobby. He writes:
“One thousand is a feasible number. You could count to 1,000. If you added one fan a day, it would take only three years. True Fanship is doable. Pleasing a True Fan is pleasurable, and invigorating. It rewards the artist to remain true, to focus on the unique aspects of their work, the qualities that True Fans appreciate.”
Kelly allows that the number will vary: “Maybe it is 500 True Fans for a painter and 5,000 True Fans for a videomaker.” And he provides examples for encouragement and ideas for sites or services that would assist in this bootstrapping approach:
“Digital technology enables this fan support to take many shapes. Fundable is a web-based enterprise which allows anyone to raise a fixed amount of money for a project, while reassuring the backers the project will happen. Fundable withholds the money until the full amount is collected. They return the money if the mininum is not reached.”
I spent 10 years running a small business in the pre-Web world and Kelly’s prescription for building a small business out a fan following resonates with my experience. I got into business by accident in a sense at age 26, with no formal training and no role model — my dad was wage-earner as I am now. But what struck me way back then was how a core group of clients made our business (a mom & pop typesetting and publishing shop). It was never easy. It was always feast or famine. So much work we were setting type until our eyes bugged out or else were worried by the lack of a backlog and trying to hustle up some work. But we ran that shop for 10 years and sold it as a going concern (though it died not long thereafter; to use Kelly’s metaphor, new owner did not bond to our fan-base).
Romulus & Remus are suckled by a wolf
Small websites have similar trouble finding nourishment
Advertising is the mother’s milk of media but so far momma has played favorites online. A 2005 report said 96 percent of advertising revenues went to the top 50 online destinations (details). That doesn’t leave much for the millions of other sites that would like to suckle.
In this vein Diane Mermigas writes for Online Media Daily about OpenX — as in exchange – which she paints as the plucky competitor to Google when it comes to offering “small and mid-sized publishers” search and mobile advertising. Mermigas — I believe she used to write for the Hollywood Reporter – goes on to say that:
“OpenX generally receives singe to low double digit percentage commissions, compared to the booming number of ad networks that command 20% to 80% of the advertising buys.”
For more check out the OpenX blog.
* * *
Lost on me completely is the comparison or contrast between OpenX and ADSDAQ which sounds to me to be a similar type of operation. Perhaps there are so many of these ad exchanges sprouting that online media have trouble telling them apart. Here’s a press release about ADSDAQ.
* * *
Newspaper publishers recently formed a national sales outlet called quadrantONE. Though it was created by newspapers, presumably to serve their interests, I would expect it to reach out to other web sites so I mention it in this context. Here is an article about the new initiative.
Kelly suggests what could be Better than Free
Cyber seer Kevin Kelly has written a guide for the writer/artist/professional/corporation baffled about how to make a living when it’s oh so easy to make knock-offs.
His advice in Better than Free is forget what used to make you valuable and cultivate eight new ways to create experiences, relationships or artifacts that can’t be easily duplicated. These are generalizations rather than tailor-made prescriptions, and the transformation won’t be easy even for those who accept his logic. Kelly writes:
“Success in the free-copy world is not derived from the skills of distribution . . . Nor are legal skills surrounding Intellectual Property and Copyright very useful anymore. Nor are the skills of hoarding and scarcity. Rather, these new eight generatives demand an understanding of how abundance breeds a sharing mindset, how generosity is a business model . . .money in this networked economy does not follow the path of the copies. Rather it follows the path of attention, and attention has its own circuits. ”
Thanks to Tim Bishop for pointing me to Kelly’s essay.
Even as the r-word gets bandied about the chief marketing officers who spend money to promote global brands say “spend levels . . . (will) . . . be mostly holding steady or trending upward in 2008.”
So says the CMO Council in a press release summarizing the results of main-in surveys from about 800 of the group’s roughly 3,000 members. I consider the results of such surveys more useful in spotting trends rather than getting reassurances about spending so I focused on the following list of priorities displayed by MarketingCharts.com:
“The 12 leading areas of marketing dollar allocation in 2008 are expected to be the following:
Strategy and branding
Events and trade shows
Direct marketing (including telemarketing, mailings, email)
Online marketing (website, SEO, SEM, viral, podcasts/blogs, communities)
Merchandising and promotions
Public and analyst relations
Customer data integration and analytics”
Look how far down the list falls advertising, the mother’s milk of the beleaguered print industry. Look how high are events and shows. Where does your media business get its revenues?
The Center for Media Research republished a recent forecast by the GroupM division of WPP that says the Beijing Olympics and U.S. presidential elections will help offset to slow the erosion of broadcast revenues in 2008. If there was any relief in the GroupM forecast for newspapers I missed it. This international report:
“identified television and the internet as the primary engines of global ad growth with 50 percent and 30 percent, respectively, of additional new investment in 2008 . . . (and) . . . said spending on marketing services such as sponsorship and public relations is growing at a faster rate than it is for traditional advertising.” (editor’s note: this eMarketer article also suggests that ad buyers are looking for new campaigns and not just the same-old, same-old.)
In other highlights the GroupM report (original version here) also predicted that global Internet ad spending will exceed 10 percent of total expenditures for the first time in 2008 and said that in Sweden, net ads are likely to exceed TV ad spending for the first time — with the U.K. and Denmark poised to follow.
In a separate but related report, a J.P. Morgan analyst suggests price increases for Internet display, or graphical, advertising — a boon for big web publishers like Yahoo.