Content Is (Cash) King.
Photo credit: The New York Times
The Boston Globe, Newsweek, and The Washington Post were all sold in early August. What exactly does this mean for people who actually care about what they read in the popular press? It means that everything's for sale, including the truth. And the truth is, that's not so bad if you're a financially struggling truth-teller (a.k.a., a journalist).
It means that if you start a media business, and it gets big enough (maybe without even being in business for almost 100 years), you can sell it for hundreds of millions of dollars, if not way more. It means content is king. It means you should be a journalist, tell true stories, learn the business, own a publication, and get rich by telling the truth, no matter upon what you report. Do it.
You see it everywhere. The once-mighty content market, heralded for it's veteran providers of news and nonsense alike, and chock-full of folks like myself who would tell you in a heart-attack that content is "king", is now gasping. I won't say who or from where, but I know several great writers/editors who are currently on the market, looking for a full-time gig. These are serious people I want to mention, and they should be looking for employment the same way a hungry adult should be looking for a Waffle House in Georgia after midnight. Meaning, for you non-GA residents, not having to look very long at all.
The market is shifting. You could say it's going mobile, or say it's moving away from being "hyper-local", or say it's just the reality of today's Twittery standard of citizen journalism. But it's still a needed thing, and if you're brave enough to choose to be and remain a content provider in this era of low-compensating news organizations, gossip-mongering click-hound websites, various financially doomed upstarts and Old Gray Ladies, you're not only brave, but you're bound to be rewarded, eventually. Here's the secret: few people can truly write at a professional level, and even fewer can edit themselves. Take your talents and monetize them with SEO, CSS, CRM, CMS, and HTML knowledge, and you're the new Edward R. Murrow, except that you're actually alive and can spend the good and well-deserved salary or stock dividends you deserve. Trust me, it's coming. Better yet, trust yourself.
You don't get a name like The Boston Globe, The Washington Post or Newsweek simply by hiring a bunch of unskilled people who don't grow their own following and reputation simply by being great at what they do. You institute standards of practice, invest in smart business policies that will secure a long-term financial future for all employees and stockholders, and find the best/brightest people to ensure that your readers always have the best stories from the best and fairest perspectives, even if those sometimes take a side in the story. And the reader will react, after they hit your 10- or 20-story limit of free access, by paying for a subscription. And if you can deliver the best content consistently and keep people from being able to access your content without going through the bank, you'll be able to charge the most money and you'll earn, and you'll thrive. Or you'll be like Patch and have to announce that you're in the process of laying off hundreds of your staff, and wonder why it just didn't work.
And even if you work at Patch right now, I'm sorry, but this still isn't doomsday -- it's capitalism. A newspaper, website, magazine, and anything else that provides content should make money, or be sold to someone who can make it profitable, because it needs to fund great journalism. No journalist -- especially not you, the future owner of a well-branded, timeless bastion of journalism greatness who started from the bottom, should ever fool his or herself into believing that newspapers, at least those that you can trust, don't have to pay bills and taxes. This is America. Everything can and will be sold. I say may the next buyer always sell higher, and may we all continue to learn and earn through these changing times.
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