Grow audience and revenue: two ways to increase the number of news sources

Yes, that is George Michael. There are three clear steps to increase the number of news sources to the level that, say, surrounded Singer George Michael in May 1985 when this photo was taken by Ann Clifford for Life magazine.

To increase the number of news sources in a community one needs to do two things: (1) grow audience and/or (2) grow revenue.

In a followup to a prompt that ushered in a post last month, Spot.Us founder David Cohn again opens the Carnival of Journalism, in which a handful of media makers and molders opine a subject of his choosing. This session, the question focuses on the role that we all play in increasing the number of news creators.

As organizers put it:

What can you, as an individual or employee, do to increase the number of news sources. Everyone has a different set of circumstances. Some work at universities (which we found out last month) others work for public media, for independent media or for-profit media entities large and small. Take a moment to reflect on your unique skills and circumstances. Then answer: What specific things can you do to increase the number of news sources for a local community.

We can figure that out by doing building audiences and revenue.

First, an important distinction is made by carnival organizers in saying this: “Certainly the number of news sources is increasing due to the very nature of the Internet,” so what the interest here is in localized action.

Second, it should be further clarified that the carnival specified that while the number of news organizations is of interest, the primary end goal here is the increase in the number of news sources. With the growth of social media and other free or low-cost online publishing tools, everyone person, organization and group is a content creator. So how do we get them to play and add to news.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, there are two and only two ways we pay for news: with money and with audience. That means news organizations get paid to create news with money — either by advertising or selling services or through philanthropic support or otherwise leveraging readership. Alternatively, bloggers, social media users and other non-news organization spread news and create content for audience — either for respect or comradeship with friends or growing authority through audience size or quality.

Two clear, actionable steps toward that goal and my role in doing so:

  1. Help grow audience — There are two groups of new news sources that fit in this category that I define by not bringing in revenue (profit, philanthropic or otherwise) as a direct result of news:
    • Independent bloggers and other social media users — These contributors are motivated by training, help with audience growth and the like, which is aided through better trafficked news sites that engage and share. I do this actively by linking and engaging in my role with Technically Philly and influencing how other legacy news organizations operate.
    • Nonprofits, businesses, groups and other organizations — Other organizations need to understand the rational self-interest in growing their own audiences by delivering content and news, something I am doing professionally with Technically Media and see as a fundamental shift in the news ecosystem.
  2. Help grow revenue — Offer backend services like sales, event planning, fiscal agency, accounting and the like for independent news sites and foster collaboration to cut costs for legacy news sites. Both can grow output then.

I want to note clearly that a clearinghouse, like one I described here and is somewhat being discussed here, that gains authority through reputation and work should serve both of these roles, by offering incubation, housing money, cross-platform directory connectivity and engagement-focused and audience-driving curation.

Dozens of other mechanisms can be help this goal be attained, but I might be willing to bet that most could fit into these two categories. Am I missing any? What do you think about that Cohn?