We realize regulation is the only way to deal with Google and Facebook
The only way to deal with the advertising duopoly of Google and Facebook is through regulation. Nation states and publisher cheerleaders will view misguided developments as a strategy to combat the rent-extracting efforts of these two organizations. No media company on Earth has the power to sit at the negotiating table on an equal footing, at least not with the power of the state that backs them.
South Africa, whether through SARS and / or the Competition Commission, will realize that there are fines and taxes not collected and may wake up in time to stem the flow of rand of the country. A small miracle could happen and the sustainability of the media industry could somehow align with these efforts to regulate the irresponsible giants of Silicon Valley.
Data and paywalls play a bigger role
As advertising shifts (has already shifted) from being a primary revenue stream to a supporting role in a news publisher’s mix, many more organizations will take the reader revenue route as a fallback. . Daily Maverick did it and it’s a better organization for it. But to be successful in the reader income space, you need two things: 1) journalism worth paying for and 2) data to drive your paywall and marketing strategy.
Jessica Lessin, founder of The Information, summed it up best: “You can’t put a paywall on a pig” when it comes to the quality of journalism required to get people to support news editors. But once the early adopters and superfans are acquired, developing a sustainable reader revenue program requires a significant investment in data and technology to generate significant revenue levels.
The New York Times, the subscription star kid in the news universe, which recently surpassed 10 million digital subscribers, employs 1,700 editors and 700 product technicians. It shows the symbiotic nature of quality journalism and technology.
Journalism becomes a bigger target
As our frontline defenses against corruption continue to erode, public service and accountability journalism will become a bigger target for these drinker-eating kleptocrats. Along with the harassment and murder of whistleblowers, threats against media houses and individual journalists will unfortunately increase.
At Daily Maverick, we see more and more legal challenges facing us and fewer people are ready to do the right thing. Our journalists wake up daily to threats of violence. As an important cog in the frontline defense against corruption that has won some high-profile victories, we know that these are, ironically, the best times that will only get worse when it comes to personal safety and emotional abuse.
The crippling exodus of talent
The media are suffering from a generational loss of talent brought about by the double catastrophe of a disrupted industry and a violated nation. Experienced journalists are drawn to corporate or government work for better pay and less risk. The struggle for tech and e-commerce skills will continue to be a Herculean lag as local and international demand absorbs these people.
All of this means that your favorite news post will struggle to deliver the best user experience and the high-quality journalism you deserve. Most reporting will be reactionary and superficial. Surveys that provide perspective and accountability will be more difficult to find as journalists and editors with decades of knowledge of the institutional and political system leave journalism.
Industry tries not to waste a crisis
In all of this sadness, there is only one bright side: for people in and around the industry to realize how screwed up we are as a country with no functioning independent media. (The real independent media, not those other skelms with the now ironic headline.) Policy reform, tax incentives and rebates can help revitalize this crucial industry and provide economic cover against the barrage of risks and threats. And these efforts will begin in earnest as the specter of eroded media is now clear to all.
Nothing leads to change like despair. The media industry, just like the country, has it in abundance. DM168
First published in DM168