Tuesday I'll be at a University of Minnesota conference titled "New Economic Models for News."
The conference is cosponsored by the Newspaper Guild, so I'm focusing my brief presentation on some things working journalists need to understand about their own business, and I'll be speaking from an inside-the-mainstream perspective.
I'll be joined in my session by Joel Kramer, who was my uberboss at the Star Tribune in the 1990s, and now runs the nonprofit startup Minnpost.com.
Here are some of the points I'm going to make:
- We need to look backward to understand how we got here -- not to waste energy hunting for scapegoats.
- Journalism has never had a business model of its own. It's always been a tool in the execution of some other agenda. This was true in the era of the partisan press, and it's true in the era of the commercial press.
- Newspapers are in the business of helping other businesses sell their goods/services.
- Journalism is useful in that business, but it's not essential.
- Part of the reason newspapers are in trouble today is that there was a profitability bubble at the end of the 20th Century. That bubble has burst.
- Despite the burst bubble, most newspapers are still profitable, and many at levels other businesses can only dream of.
I'll talk about where newspapers are making their money today, where they're likely to make their money in the future, and some risks that come with some of the great new ideas.