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Why Journalism Sucks, And How We're Fixing It

Why Journalism Sucks, And How We're Fixing It

by Brad MerrillApril 2, 2013

[dropcap1]J[/dropcap1]ournalism has become a very difficult business. Through recent changes in technology and business approaches, the whole industry is gradually becoming unsustainable. What is there to do?

I’m all for the free flow of information. That’s the driving force behind VentureBreak and much of what we do. But that alone is not enough to build a lasting business. It’s been said that for every seven dollars of print advertising there is only one dollar of online ad revenue.

That’s why Start Up Your Startup ended up being a $10 ebook, rather than a free blog series—as was originally planned. We’ve got to come up with alternative ways to make this business sustainable. Granted, selling an ebook is far from innovative, but it’s certainly a start.

I saw a piece by Robert W. McChesney on Salon.com entitled “Mainstream media meltdown!” in which the writer discussed how there is no clear path to profitability for today’s digital organizations. Further, he mentioned that despite journalism being a vital public service, “none of America’s financial geniuses can figure out how to make money off it.”

It is both tragic and pathetic to see dedicated journalists obsessing over how to keep their newsrooms alive. “We have to find a business model that works—we have to,” Christian Science Monitor editor Marshall Ingwerson told NYU media scholar Rodney Benson. “This is the word I hated but in the last five years has become universal—we have to monetize. How do we monetize what we do? Same as everybody else.”

Ingwerson is right about monetizing, but doing it the “same as everybody else” sure as hell isn’t getting anybody anywhere. I fear that free media is on its last leg, as there aren’t many effective methods beyond locking everything behind a paywall. That’s not on our roadmap here at VentureBreak—but if it comes to that, it comes to that.

I want to go back to the days of old media. Many old media nostalgists complain about how no media company today provides training and mentorship for new writers. They hate SEO-driven headlines and the public unwilling to pay even a few dollars for journalism that costs many thousand times that to produce. They curse at unpaid bloggers pushing out cat video after cat video while government corruption goes unreported and scandal goes uncovered. They’ll complain all day, but they won’t do a fucking goddamn thing about it.

Rather than bitching about how everything that was good about old media is dying, why don’t we focus on finding ways to make those things sustainable in a digital age?

Journalism sucks, but it doesn’t have to. We’ve got some big ideas, folks—ideas that other digital media companies aren’t doing (and likely would never dare to attempt). It’s time to bring back well-written, researched, investigative journalism—and it’s time to do it in the digital age. Stay tuned.

About The Author
Brad Merrill
Brad Merrill is the founder and former editor of VentureBreak.