So what should pub­lish­ers do?


Ob­vi­ously based on the above list, which is in no way com­plete, there are many dif­fer­ent sources of fund­ing avail­able to me­dia. And although govern­ment sub­si­dies seem to be high on ev­ery­one’s wish list and should not be dis­missed, govern­ment should never be the pri­mary source of rev­enue for pub­lish­ers. They should not seek it as the pri­mary source, or even as a ma­jor­ity source. In­stead, pub­lish­ers need to look be­yond govern­ment hand­outs and start hav­ing a hand in rais­ing money for them­selves be­yond sub­scrip­tions, ad­ver­tis­ing and mem­ber­ships.

Some may sub­mit that if you’re open to al­ter­na­tive forms of fund­ing, you will be ex­pected to pro­duce con­tent that is guided by those third par­ties. They’ll sug­gest that your ed­i­to­rial in­tegrity will be put at risk by ac­cept­ing their money. I dis­agree. If you have di­ver­si­fied fund­ing from sev­eral sources (the more non-par­ti­san the bet­ter), no one source will be able to in­ter­fere with your jour­nal­is­tic in­tegrity.

For hun­dreds of years, pub­lish­ers have re­lied on read­ers and advertisers to fund their busi­ness. It worked in print, but dig­i­tal cre­ated a per­fect storm which de­fined new rules of en­gage­ment where: • The free flow of con­tent quickly led to its com­modi­ti­za­tion

• Ad­ver­tis­ing space scarcity which pow­ered print rev­enues was sup­planted by un­lim­ited, low-priced dig­i­tal in­ven­tory

• Changes to con­sumer be­hav­iors in terms of how they dis­cover, con­sume, share and mon­e­tize (or not) ed­i­to­rial and ad­ver­tis­ing con­tent was con­trary to ev­ery­thing pub­lish­ers came to ex­pect from read­ers

Dig­i­tal has cre­ated a whole new ball­game that re­quires think­ing and play­ing out­side the printer’s box…

1. Be open to al­ter­na­tive fund­ing re­sources

Iden­tify which fund­ing sources are more ap­pro­pri­ate for your con­tent and cre­ate a busi­ness plan for each source which clearly states the ROI for the fun­der and their role in your suc­cess.

2. Protect your ed­i­to­rial in­tegrity at all costs

Choose fund­ing sources that align with your busi­ness goals; walk away from those that don’t. And max­i­mize the num­ber of fund­ing sources so you can min­i­mize any threat to your jour­nal­is­tic in­tegrity.

3. Be ac­count­able

Think of your­self as a pub­licly-listed com­pany with your au­di­ence as share­hold­ers – share­hold­ers to whom you must be ac­count­able. After all, read­ers fund the ex­pan­sion of your busi­ness and your day-to-day op­er­a­tions. Even non­sub­scrib­ing read­ers are ef­fec­tively share­hold­ers; their at­ten­tion to your ed­i­to­rial and ad­ver­tis­ing con­tent costs them in mo­bile data charges and ends up gen­er­at­ing ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enue for you. You have a fidu­ciary re­spon­si­bil­ity to all your fund­ing sources which in­cludes your read­ers and your advertisers.

One of the world’s most in­flu­en­tial and icon­o­clas­tic busi­ness thinkers, Gary Hamel once said, “Large or­ga­ni­za­tions don’t wor­ship share­hold­ers or cus­tomers, they wor­ship the past. If it were other­wise, it wouldn’t take a cri­sis to set a com­pany on a new path.”

Pub­lish­ing has been in a cri­sis since 2000. It’s time for us to carve new paths to prof­its by di­ver­si­fy­ing not only our busi­ness, but our fund­ing sources as well.

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