“Society doesn’t need newspapers, it needs journalism”

News has become increasingly devalued over recent years. Outlets have had to pivot to new models to monetise and keep the lights on. From banner and native ads to Facebook and aggregators, it seems that publications have switched models again and again, without actually pivoting toward their readers. Mogul News will be different.

Journalism and a new business model

Clay Shirky, the author of Here Comes Everybody, wrote that the internet breaks things faster than it creates them. The internet has broken the traditional model of journalism and has yet to replace it with something that is sustainable. The old model has survived for a very long time, over 150 years. In 1833 Benjamin Day launched the New York Sun at the low cost of one penny. It quickly grew to 20,000 readers, much larger than any other newspaper at the time. But the money earned from selling the newspaper was not enough to support it. The rest was made up from advertising. He created the model which the newspaper would use for the next century and a half.

Then came the internet and broke it. Newspapers were these large behemoths, with centralised newsroom employing hundreds of journalists, large print costs, and ad sales rooms looking to attract big brands to place commercials on its pages. But advertisers fled to where the eyeballs were, and hundreds of papers shut down. The survivors are still shuffling on, trying to adapt their old model to new realities.

But it cannot last.

The New York Times takes in $500m every year from adverts, roughly a third of its overall revenue, and it only posted profits of $4m. With advertising money declining year-on-year by over 5%, this is not a sustainable model.

Other papers have doubled down on the advertising model. Metro and the Evening Standard in London are giving away their papers for free. They make their money from selling ad space, tempting commuters to become consumers. But that model is not going well either, with the Standard posting a £10m loss last year.

So, ads obviously aren’t working, but can subscriptions fill the void?

The New York Times has done an admirable job in boosting the money it gets directly from its readers, now over $1bn. This still does not cover all its expenses, however, and to expect continued growth in the coming years would be naïve. The New York Times is the biggest newspaper in America, and yet it is dancing on the edge.

There are costs associated with wooing marketing money as well. Editorial freedom may be limited by an unwillingness to publish stories which may put off potential buyers. Running negative stories on businesses would hurt the bottom line. This is an increasingly important factor in a world wherejournalists believe that holding business to account is more important than holding politicians to account.

Mogul News, journalism and startups

Clay Shirky again put it best when he said that society doesn’t need newspapers, it needs journalism.

That is what we are doing with Mogul News. By doing away with a centralised newsroom, and other production costs associated with the industry, the focus can be put right on journalism. With no advertisers to be accountable to, editorial freedom is ensured. News is valuable and important, and it must be funded by those who benefit from it, the reader. That is why we are charging a subscription.

But many subscriptions are unfair to the reader. The average cost of a subscription to a newspaper is over $20. And you’d get only one side of the story. Music and movie lovers don’t pay for access to each music label and studio. Mogul News will host content from different publications, from journalists and experts from all around the world. It will allow people with a passionate knowledge about a subject to share their insights with a global audience. We think that they should be rewarded fairly for their contribution. And the higher the impact a story has, the more the author will be paid.

News is valuable. It shapes the way you see the world, it informs you about what’s going on, and it impacts the decisions you make about your life. But, if you have to pay for those things, are they privileges available to those that can afford them? We will outline our solution to this problem next week, and how we will still be accessible to all, whether you can afford our subscription or not.

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