New universe of news demands a new manifesto


There was always a clear definition of what journalists have to do in a newspaper company: Write stories interesting enough to inform or to entertain readers.

There was no denying the fact that others, mainly the management and its marketing and distribution department, were in charge of the size audience the newspaper attracts. Journalists called this approach “independence of journalism.” Of course, it is!

But the role of journalists has changed radically, even among those who are employed and get a huge guaranteed salary monthly. Nowadays, a trend can be observed of journalists bearing responsibility for their own readership or “community.”

There is one big magazine published in New York at which a journalist’s salary is partly determined by the visits he or she pulls to the magazine’s Web site with their own blogged stories.

The management of this magazine sets the online goals: 10 blog posts and more than 150,000 visits a month, or they will have a tough meeting with the journalist.

Is the independence of journalism in danger? Not really. Could this also work for newspapers? Sure. It’s all about justice.

In the past, we saw two kinds of journalists in the newsroom organisation. Those who had a high daily output and carried the newspaper through poor news days (i.e. sports journalists, local reporters, news writers). And there were those who needed a lot of time to rethink any sentence written the day before (i.e. feuilleton authors, culture columnists, some political correspondents).

Whenever you tried to increase the output of this second group, you got the same answers: “People love my stuff” or “I have a great audience among the readership of the paper, and it’s all about the content value.”

And there was no way to prove this statement. The newspaper was always of sample of incremental elements you couldn’t evaluate. Copy tests just gave hints, but no hard facts.

In the online world, things have changed. The work of any journalist can be measured in terms of audience and be judged by figures generated by tracking tools such as Google Analytics or Chartbeat. 

Journalists cannot escape in a discussion: A story that gathers just 100 views certainly isn’t worth US$10,000 spent on research.

The fact that the value of a story — and so the value of the journalist’s work — can be measured economically is, without a doubt, a big deal in our business. It isn’t just all about storytelling but content creation as part of an ecosystem with journalists as media entrepreneurs.

For this, these journalists need a totally new mindset. We can put this in a kind of manifesto for the news media industry: We break with the conventions of traditional journalism and business tools to form a new partnership between publishers, authors, and readers, and to revolutionise the world of news – in our new universe of news.

We found four main motivation drivers for journalists to become a sustainable part of this entrepreneurial news universe of news.

  • Passion for a subject: The journalist wants to gain interest for his insights.

  • Branding: The journalist wants to become a well-known writer.

  • Competition: The journalist wants to become No. 1 in a ranking of a segment.

  • Money: The journalist takes a risk and wants to get an incentive for the community of readers he creates.

In the meltdown of the newspaper industry, the involvement of journalists could be a deal for media companies to share both risks and chance with their content creators.

Forbes pays less than a penny for each visit on a story, but a dime for a each returning visit. So, the journalists benefit from creating a community by sticking to big subjects, answering comments, setting links to peers, and by staying up to date on what entrepreneurial journalism needs to survive.

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