Update: It's a meme for sure. A commentary over at the WSJ online by Andy Kessler makes my idea sound less crazy.
I've been thinking about this since last Saturday when I read that the SF Chronicle would be cutting 25 percent of it's editorial staff in their newsroom. And with the conversation taking shape online I decided to stop procrastinating and write this.
On Tuesday of this week I was talking with Scott about podcasting quality and new media production when I went segued into, "If I had $5 million dollars . . ."
Here's what I would do with it:
1. I would pick up half of the Chronicle staffers that are being canned [around 40 people] You might ask, at the core, how this is different from Reuters or other media organizations? It's not really that different. It's simply a model that uses the greatest distribution platform - the internet and maintains agility by avoiding bloat.
2. Spend a couple of weeks working with them to understand RSS, blogging, podcasting (audio/video), production software Mac/PC and anything else DIY media - don't get me wrong most of them probably understand this stuff but I would want them to be self-sufficient, decentralized producers (Mark is already getting this on)
3. Find out what they really like to do in life, what they like to report about and where they like to travel
4. Send them all off to report (blog and podcast) with the gear and skills they need to produce finished works, and a login to a central web based CMS. There is no big fancy office in this plan.
5. Distribute the work via blog, podcast, RSS and closed system for contract work
The way that it is really different is that a new crop of seasoned print news pros would show up on the scene with the ability to use the knowledge, interview skills and the contacts that they have gained in their tenure to produce work - news reporting, investigative, human interest . . . what have you, from their own perspective. I agree with Dave Winer on this, it is the next step.
So how do you keep it going? With a smaller, nimble, decentralized model like this I think you could get really creative with ways to generate revenue. The real nut comes from selling the content back to traditional media outlets as a buyout for rights or licensing it to them for a fee. Ad revenue should be viewed as beer money.
When I stood inside the building at 1211 Avenue of the Americas, a.k.a News Corp, I was told that the 10x10 room with equipment floor to ceiling and 5 people inside was the only room in the building that turned a profit. The room? Distribution by satellite for affiliates, rival networks and other buyers around the globe. One hundred square feet! Btw, have you seen how big this building is?
So, if I had $5 million I would look to these and other journalistic professionals as partners in building the next generation of media publishing. Sure, they are showing up after most of the heavy lifting has already been done and many of them spent an inordinate amount of time picking us apart, but we should welcome them to the party. We have just as much to learn from them as they do us.
I can't forget this . . . that is $5 million business money. Do you think that Betsy would let me near it if it was really mine? I mean hers.
SF Chronicle firings Hiring Chronicle employees new media rival networks decentralized media