[Editor’s Note: I don’t make any money off this blog and at the moment have no plans of doing so.]
The hot question is what’s the revenue model. Everybody’s got a great idea, but none of us can put our minds together and come up with anything better than let’s slap some advertising on it and hope that people pay attention. Well, today, while reading John Hagel and Jeff Jarvis on the train to Connecticut I had an idea which I’ll get to after a bit of set up.
Journalistic integrity is bullshit. Now that’s not to say that journalists don’t have individual integrity, but if you ask me it takes a lot more integrity to stand up and admit to your bias than pretend you don’t have one. Reporting both sides of a story when the other side is all but non-existent isn’t fair and accurate, on the contrary, the situation you’re creating is one where two unequal sides are given equal attention.
Now I know the road I’m going down here is a bit of a treacherous path, people need to receive both sides of a story and I’m not arguing against that. I’m just saying that often journalists search out the other side and represent it in an unbalanced way. In Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” he cites a study of 928 abstracts of global warming articles, noting that not one questioned the existence of or human contribution to global warming. On the other hand, he reported that a large number of journalistic articles in that same timeframe presented the story as a two-sided one, often quoting skeptics. Sure, numbers can lie, but the larger point is that clearly many of these stories misrepresent the opposition as larger than they really are, an idea that can be even more damaging than not representing them at all.
Okay, so what does all this have to do with revenue models? Well, here at NoahBrier.com, I don’t have journalistic integrity, I’ve just got personal integrity. I have to answer to myself and myself only. The information posted here does not go through an editor or fact checker, it just goes from my head, through my fingers and out to you. I only post things I find interesting and fully admit that something I said yesterday I may not believe tomorrow.
The reason you keep coming back is you trust me as a filter for you. You come for the links or the writing. You want to read what I’ve got to say. If all of a sudden I started talking gibberish (which I may be doing right now) or started to sound like a commercial, you might decide to end the relationship. But until then you’ll probably stick around. Maybe you’ll even leave a comment sometime. We’re connected.
So why shouldn’t I use that connection for some financial gain? What would happen if I started accepting money to talk about products. Except part of the deal for the company was that in accepting the payment (1) I didn’t have to say anything and (2) if I did say anything it didn’t have to be nice. No part of the deal was that I had to mention I was paid, though. Why should you care? You’re here because you trust me. If I broke that trust by recommending a shit product you wouldn’t come back, leaving me without the audience needed to demand the cash from the ‘advertiser.’
In Everybody’s a Network, Jeff Jarvis quotes John Hagel. In an article from Friday titled “The Long Tail and the Structure of the Media Industry”, John Hagel makes the point again:
Here are two tests. Most media companies today are driven by product centric economics Ã¢â‚¬â€œ they track in great detail what it costs to make a media product, how many units are sold or distributed and the revenue generated by product. How many of them effectively track the life time value of their audience members or customers Ã¢â‚¬â€œ what it costs to acquire an audience member or customer, how long their relationship endures and how much revenue and profit is generated by audience member or customer? These customer centric economics drive customer relationship businesses.
Second test Ã¢â‚¬â€œ how ready are most media companies to point their audience members or customers to media products offered by their competitors? From my experience, very few. A customer relationship business acts as an agent on behalf of the customer, helping to connect them with whatever resources are most valuable or relevant to them, regardless of source.
It’s the second test I’m interested in. I’m in the customer relationship business. I constantly send you to other sites without any worries of whether you’ll return or not. I know that if I recommend something interesting, you’ll come back for more. So why couldn’t I just extend this model and start recommending goods and services? As long as I wholeheartedly believe in what I was recommending, why does it matter if I was paid or not? Sure there are dangers with people selling out and recommending crap, but like I said before, if that happens they’ve damaged the relationship with the reader. In other words, I would have a serious financial interest in only recommending the best stuff out there.
Now I have no clue whether this would actually work or not, but at least it’s an interesting idea. Right?