I often say that in the disrupted media businesses that journalists are all freelancers now, or to put it another, more positive way, we all have to be much more entrepreneurial than we have been in the past. That being said, making the move from being a jobbing journalist into an entrepreneur or business owner can be a major shift.
As a reporter with 30 years in the field as a foreign correspondent, as a war correspondent, I just had no experience building a team, raising money, managing a company. It was an incredibly steep learning curve.
The service uses AI to automate the laborious process of transcription while also adding searchability and discoverability. I like services like this because I often say that I would rather outsource tasks like this to robots rather than treat journalists like robots. It frees journalists up to add value.
The biggest challenge for media leaders is choosing where they think their journalists add value. This is important in creating a content strategy when we’re trying to determine how to make that value exchange clear so that audiences will become paying members or subscribers.
And in building his company, he has learned this important lesson: Even if you’re competing with much bigger competitors – in his world Google and Microsoft – that there is value in focusing on one task and doing that task incredibly well.
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I’m back from a much-needed mini-break so Tuesday is the new Monday, well at least for me this week. Up first today in today’s media newsletter is a review of a talk by Adam Davison, the Head of Insight and Data Science at The Economist. The great write-up by Esther Kezia Thorpe looks at the evolution of The Economist’s paid content strategy over the last 20 years. This really builds on the post I highlighted last week that pointed out that businesses that get better are businesses that get smarter. They are constantly working and refining their model.
The killer quote by Davison was this one in which the business was trying to evaluate the trade-offs to certain business decisions whether that was advertising versus reader revenue or the number of articles that a reader had access to before hitting the paywall. Davison said:
Historically, we’ve not been very data-driven when evaluating these trade-offs basically. It’s been very much sort of…business strategy gut feel, maybe a little bit of data here and there, but probably not used anything like as effectively as it could have been. So I think with this latest transition, I really wanted to try to do this the right way, use data to be as informed as possible when we made this decision.
Read the whole piece, but the other thing that really stood out was how their data strategy has changed. The Economist has had to break down data silos in their business. They had data and talented analysts across the business, but they worked in isolation.
I have seen this in the work that I do. Editorial teams have data, usually quantitative, but marketing teams often have more information about the habits and preferences of audiences. Both pools of data can be useful to the other team.
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There has been a lot of handwringing about the broken-ness of comments online. Great comments take the right strategic editorial approach and a bit of effort. Did anyone really believe the only thing a media company needed to do was slap a comment box on the bottom of articles? Too often that seems like the case.
What still baffles me after all these years is the low-hanging fruit that most news organisations are missing with community. Digitally native media doesn’t miss these easy wins. For instance, Lifehacker has a Discussion of the Day. Walter Glenn sums up the idea:
Great discussions are par for the course here on Lifehacker. Each day, we highlight a discussion that is particularly helpful or insightful, along with other great discussions and reader questions you may have missed. Check out these discussions and add your own thoughts to make them even more wonderful!
It’s a simple and positive way to drive people to the editorial features focused on discussions. They even call their commenters participants. Simple touches that all communicate a positive sense about the conversations they want to create.
Why don’t newspapers do this more often and print the best responses in the paper as well? Highlighting the comments in print would be a way to reward the best comments, and hey, it might also drive some print sales. It ain’t rocket science, just some simple strategic thinking about user engagement.
Most media companies, when they’re trying ot decide about the quality of their content, they hire an editor they really trust to make a judgment. Here, it’s like, ‘Let’s build a tool.’ It just shows our very different mindset of building a virality machine here.
Kevin: J.D. Lasica looks at an event at Google to look for ways to pay for journalism. It's a good post without a real conclusion other than "What's clear is that there's no single solution to the how-do-we-pay-for-journalism problem".