Reading Reflections Week Ten November 4

Do the readings listed in the syllabus for week 10 if you have not already, and answer the following questions by our next class November 11.

  • Based on what you’ve read here and learned in class so far, what do you think is the most promising funding model for the future of news and/or other types of media content? Be specific.
  • Share one additional thing you found useful or interesting from the readings.

12 thoughts on “Reading Reflections Week Ten November 4

  1. 1. After reading “The Long Tail” article, I could definitely see this as a model for the future of news. “Forget squeezing millions from a few megahits at the top of the charts. The future of entertainment is in the millions of niche markets at the shallow end of the bitstream.” There is a lot of truth here. Examples of Netflix, ITunes and Rhapsody are perfect examples. These are very successful media organizations. Obviously, consumers enjoy the experience. So, why wouldn’t they enjoy it in the form of news? It is a three step process. Make everything available. Cut the price in half, now lower it. Finally, help me find it. It’s simple to comprehend. We want more than hits. When you walk into a room, of course you want to be able to chime in on the hottest news story. However, isn’t it even more fulfilling to walk into the room and have a news story that others haven’t heard yet? “Everyone’s taste departs from the mainstream somewhere, and the more we explore alternatives, the more we’re drawn to them.” To dig more into Netflix, they are successful because they have created a business out of what’s unprofitable in movie theaters because it can combine scattered audiences. Long Tail news treats readers as individuals. It expands our horizon and puts us in a situation to learn more about the world and more about ourself.

    2. I found the section on Services in “What Would Google Do?” very interesting. Jarvis talks about airlines and how Google could possibly make the experience of air travel more enjoyable. “Today, airlines offer only seats. What if, instead they were to offer experiences and societies?” The idea of adding a sense of passenger network in the air and the result of creating an entire new economy around flight really intrigued me. By auctioning marketplaces for seats, it would help with over booking. If flights did not have a lot of passengers, the airlines could offer passengers incentives to cancel. These are great ideas. By creating a more laid back and social experience, the airline environment shifts and so does the airline economy. I also enjoyed his comparison to passengers on a airplane as prisoners in jail. It is a little extreme, but it made me laugh. The airlines are mostly in control of us. Airline customers definitely have value, but quite often it doesn’t seem this way.

    • Carrie Brown says:

      I agree – love the section on airlines. Wish some would actually learn from that!

      This I think it is a good choice of quote “Everyone’s taste departs from the mainstream somewhere, and the more we explore alternatives, the more we’re drawn to them.”

  2. Lori Shull says:

    One thing I think I can safely say is a not-at-all-promising funding method is the paywall. I loved Salmon’s line about newspapers being in competition with everything on the web, not just their own print editions. While that’s common sense when you hear it, I don’t think it goes without saying.

    I agree with Shelby Jo that the idea of the long tail is really cool. I’m not sure that it translates to news, though, or if it does, that it’s an easy fit. The long tail (it seems) implies that even though prices are low, there are usually still prices involved. And if the rest of the internet is free, even if that NYT article is .99, am I willing to pay for it? And if the BuzzFeed article on a related topic (journalism = equals not as good as NYT) is .29, doesn’t that signify that that story isn’t as good? Maybe it is good enough, but if it’s something I’m passionate about, I’m going to go to the WSJ or BBC or (let’s be honest) the Daily Show. I still think that a diversified business model that operates in the non-profit realm might still be the best way to go for a “traditional” media company. Even if it’s partisan, it’s more likely to be upfront about it than taking money from biased but wealthy investors. Think about what media backed by the Koch brothers would look like. Perhaps that’s a cop-out and I don’t think it’s the best long-term solution, but I think it might be the best one for now to build the simpler media organizations that Shirky talked about until we figure out what the next steps are. Non-profits might have a better chance of surviving to build the future, after all. They can’t all be unreasonably optimistic and operating with their heads in the sand.

    My favorite section of this week’s readings was Jarvis’ section about education in WWGD. I’m not sure I agree with everything he said, but it was fascinating. If I, as a political science student, could bid on a seat in a class taught by a professor from the London School of Economics for my required British government class, how much better would that be than learning from a professor who maybe did some graduate work there 30 years ago? Pretty fantastic. I’m not sure it’s realistic – talk about higher education as one of those overly complex bureaucracies. Someone suggest it in a deans’ meeting and let me know how that goes. I loved even more what he had to say about the importance of teaching reasoning and research more than memorization. It’s amazing how few students today have any idea how to analyze a source (or even really find one) to gauge its reliability. Not to mention that when everything is available through search (whether Google, Lexis Nexus or something else), why bother to remember when WWII began and ended?

  3. Kimberly Exford says:

    After reading Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail, I want to believe that this has the potential to be a good model. Think about the quote at the beginning of the article, “Forget squeezing millions from a few megahits at the top of the charts. The future of entertainment is in the millions of niche markets at the shallow end of the bitstream.” In my opinion, he is saying, stop thinking about the top. Stop thinking about the “big fish” and instead, think about the little fish at the bottom. Think about the thousands found there instead of the few at the top. He gives good examples of Rhapsody and Netflix. The comparison of online and offline markets (i.e. Blockbuster to Netflix) as well as Barnes & Noble to Amazon. I like the quote, “”The biggest money is in the smallest sales.” This is true, small sales can boost a business just like bigger ones. And think about it, as a consumer, I am more likely to make quick cheap purchases before making one large one. I suppose I feel like if it doesn’t work out, I am not out of as much. So, let’s consider if millions of people thought like this, this is a lot of small purchases. Like mentioned in the article about Google and eBay, if you can discover new markets as well as expand the existing ones, then you might be on to something.

    Like Shelby Jo, for me, the most interesting section or ideas came from the Service section in Jarvis’ book. As I was reading, I was really starting to imagine and envision a world where SERVICE, and good service at that, was the goal in all of my airline experiences. Instead, I can’t help but to think that the goal of Delta, Southwest, United, etc. is to pluck as many dollars out of my pocket while I am simply trying to travel home to Atlanta to see my friends and family. Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not about the destination, but it’s about the journey”? I don’t think that’s the exact wording, but it’s something similar. Anyways, for me this means that my trips home for the holidays (which I prefer to be on a 747 airplane vs in my car for 15 hours) are a journey, complete with security and baggage checks. However, during this journey part of my experience is dependent upon customer service. I would love to have a more social experience while in the air for 3 hours. It might actually make me spend a few extra dollars if it means an awesome experience. I also love the idea of bartering our frequent flier miles with one another. So often, airlines limit what we can and can’t do with our miles. UMMM excuse me?!?! I am the one spending my hard earned cash on YOUR flight, so why can’t I decide the perks I get with the measly little 50 points I earned??? As a consumer, having more say so can be a good thing. Don’t make me pay for a seat, then potato chips, then a drink, etc. Instead, make me pay only once for good service/experience.

    • Carrie Brown says:

      Good, Kimberly. I especially like this: “I am more likely to make quick cheap purchases before making one large one. I suppose I feel like if it doesn’t work out, I am not out of as much.” I think that is a really important insight into consumer psychology and something to think about when thinking about pricing.

  4. Nicholas Beshiri says:

    After reading Chris Anderson’s “The Long Tail” I also agree that this model could be one that would work very well for the future. This model takes the focus away from the so-called “hits”, such as summer blockbusters, and moves it toward the niche groups. While reading the article I found myself identifying with many of the niche groups that were talked about. Documentaries are more often that not some of my favorite films and until the emergence of Netflix and other streaming services like Vimeo On Demand many documentaries were next to impossible to find. It is people like me that Anderson is referring to when he talks about the untapped potential revenue. This model is great in the sense that it moves away from depending on three or four movies to make up the majority of revenue for a studio and using all of the media available. This process may take longer and doesn’t give a studio money in one large sum, but over time it turns out to be the better option.

    I found Jarvis’s article “Journalism as Service: Lessons from Sandy” especially interesting. Jarvis was able to give an insiders look at the situation and how difficult it was to get any type of relevant information. He makes very good points in that it took a situation like Sandy to expose the many flaws in the system. I think the most glaring problem learned from his experience is that large newspapers as well as small startups, such as, are forgetting one of the most important factors, customer involvement. Jarvis points out that companies like Patch and Nextdoor are not providing a proper platform for the user. I think he says it best in this quote, “You’re a platform only if and when your users take over what you’ve built and use it in ways you never imagined because they find it that useful”.

  5. Andrew Doughty says:

    After reading all of these responses to the first question, I challenged myself to play devil’s advocate to the Long Tail approach and suggest a different funding model that I believed is most promising for the future. Unfortunately after re-reading Chris Anderson’s article…and re-re-reading it again, I cannot structure a legitimate argument as to why I don’t strongly agree with Nicholas, Kimberly, Lori and Shelby.

    That being said, I believe the Long Tail model has a fascinating and very promising future. We’ve seen numerous news organizations diversity their portfolio by creating new series, websites, blogs and even new niches. For example, USA Today expanded their base by creating “For the Win”, a site designated to the same viral sports content and amusing happenings that has allowed the likes of Buzzfeed, Deadspin and Uproxx to attract millions of eyeballs. By delving deeper in the various niches, including sports social-sharing, USA Today has created a new offering for a new audience that was previously unreachable. Advanced website analytics have also allowed these sites and thousands of others to pinpoint user behavior in tailoring their content to successfully hit their specific markets at the most advantageous times.
    As we see Barnes & Noble, Borders and other large bookstores close their doors in favor of electronic alternatives, the likes of Redbox, Dollar Shave Club, Amazon, Zappos and Netflix continue to take giants bites out of various niche markets.
    I believe our society is more entitled than ever before, with millions of Americans thirsty for a chance to share their voice, have their name go viral on Twitter or become an entrepreneur. The plethora of options has allowed consumers to almost do whatever they want whenever they want, including what type of news they seek out. As the sharing of content becomes easier and cheaper, more organizations will have the ability to provide a greater assortment of niche material.

    I found the piece on Nonprofit Journalism to be interesting. I believe that the term nonprofit is widely misunderstood, including by myself. As Dr. Brown reminded us in class, nonprofit doesn’t mean no money and I believe this lack of understanding clouds the opinions of those flirting with the option of running, joining, funding or partnering with a nonprofit organization.
    This line was a perfect reminder as to what type of content a nonprofit journalism organization produces:
    “The classification as a nonprofit, in other words, speaks to the tax status and financial structure of an organization rather than the kind of news produced.” And because there are usually only a handful of individuals producing original content at these nonprofits every week, their respective financial structures are extremely important, especially if they are relying on grants for long-term stability. It will be interesting to monitor both organization-sponsored and independent nonprofits over the next decade to see if they are still in dire need of business, marketing and fundraising help.

  6. Cheryl Hayes says:

    A funding model depends on the nature of the business and the product, or service it offers. Therefore, there is no one funding model that will work the same across various companies. So, multiple factors must be considered in determining a funding model to include, but not limited to customer segments and value proposition. According to research from Pew Research, financial support for news consists of advertising at 69%, audience at 24%, other at 7% and Philanthropy and capital investments at 1%. ( lists the most widely used funding resources used by media companies as advertising, subscriptions, pay-per-item and merchandising. These are the most common funding models across news and media companies varying by a few other resources, or two. The future funding model for news and media companies will definitely need to be diverse and equally important, creative. Chris Anderson’s “The Long Tail” is a great example of how news and media companies should start to think. They should look at unpopular factors of their product, or service and develop an entirely new niche from it, which could possibly become a new revenue stream.

    It was interesting to read Jeff Jarvis’s “Journalism as service: Lessons from Sandy”. I do understand the frustration of not having specific information reported during a disaster such as Sandy. Jarvis talks about journalism as a service rather than as a product. A wiki type platform that allows journalist to create up-to-date, relevant and accurate reporting is definitely a great way for journalists to provide their service to help news and radio organizations provide better information that is clear, detailed and specific about what is going on during such disasters to the public; especially for those directly involved in the affected areas as Jarvis and his neighbors were.

    • Carrie Brown says:

      Good – I think you are exactly right that no one single revenue model is going to be enough. Also, I think AlertMe could be a good solution to the problems Jarvis describes, if additional features were added – something to thing about.

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