Posts tagged business models

Summer Reading from The New Yorker

The New Yorker is opening up its Web site for the next few months, letting visitors read everything currently being published — along with archives back to 2007 — for free.

The move comes alongside a site redesign.

Via The New Yorker:

Beginning this week, absolutely everything new that we publish—the work in the print magazine and the work published online only—will be unlocked. All of it, for everyone. Call it a summer-long free-for-all. Non-subscribers will get a chance to explore The New Yorker fully and freely, just as subscribers always have. Then, in the fall, we move to a second phase, implementing an easier-to-use, logical, metered paywall.

Images: Twitter posts from The New Yorker… and an ellipsis for good measure.

Recently, In Advertising
"There are things in there editors won’t like, and things in there that publishers won’t like," a Condé Nast editor tells AdAge about the company’s decision to formalize its native advertising policies.
An approximately 4,000-word internal document is currently circulating the company, AdAge reports, that “not only delves into advertising but also provides standards and practices around certain legal and privacy concerns, including how the company will handle consumer data.”
Condé Nast includes publications such as Wired, Vogue, The New Yorker and Vanity Fair among many others.
Other large publishers, such as Hearst (Cosmo and Esquire) and Time, Inc (Time, People and Sports Illustrated), are sticking to more general guidelines and making case-by-case decisions on native ads and their formats.
Meantime, Time magazine and Sports Illustrated are breaking a magazine industry taboo by selling advertising on the covers of their print editions.
As The New York Times notes:

[T]he Time and Sports Illustrated cover ads appear to violate the guidelines of the American Society of Magazine Editors, the influential trade group that awards the National Magazine Awards. The first rule in its guidelines for magazine editors and publishers is, “Don’t print ads on covers.”
"The cover is the editor and publisher’s brand statement," it says. "Advertisements should not be printed directly on the cover or spine."

That said, print newspapers such as the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal run ads on their front pages, and ads on the home pages of magazine and news sites are pretty much the norm.
"You can either say this is a groundbreaking decision to put ads on covers after 91 years in the business," Norman Pearlstine, Time Inc’s chief content officer, tells AdAge, ”or you can say this is a relatively modest reference that catches up to what’s going on in the industry.”
We go with the latter with the caveat that it will be disappointing when our best magazine covers are covered in ads.
Image: Vintage Youtube by Moma, a Brazilian advertising agency, as part of a 2010 “Everything Ages Fast” campaign.

Recently, In Advertising

"There are things in there editors won’t like, and things in there that publishers won’t like," a Condé Nast editor tells AdAge about the company’s decision to formalize its native advertising policies.

An approximately 4,000-word internal document is currently circulating the company, AdAge reports, that “not only delves into advertising but also provides standards and practices around certain legal and privacy concerns, including how the company will handle consumer data.”

Condé Nast includes publications such as Wired, Vogue, The New Yorker and Vanity Fair among many others.

Other large publishers, such as Hearst (Cosmo and Esquire) and Time, Inc (Time, People and Sports Illustrated), are sticking to more general guidelines and making case-by-case decisions on native ads and their formats.

Meantime, Time magazine and Sports Illustrated are breaking a magazine industry taboo by selling advertising on the covers of their print editions.

As The New York Times notes:

[T]he Time and Sports Illustrated cover ads appear to violate the guidelines of the American Society of Magazine Editors, the influential trade group that awards the National Magazine Awards. The first rule in its guidelines for magazine editors and publishers is, “Don’t print ads on covers.”

"The cover is the editor and publisher’s brand statement," it says. "Advertisements should not be printed directly on the cover or spine."

That said, print newspapers such as the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal run ads on their front pages, and ads on the home pages of magazine and news sites are pretty much the norm.

"You can either say this is a groundbreaking decision to put ads on covers after 91 years in the business," Norman Pearlstine, Time Inc’s chief content officer, tells AdAge, ”or you can say this is a relatively modest reference that catches up to what’s going on in the industry.”

We go with the latter with the caveat that it will be disappointing when our best magazine covers are covered in ads.

Image: Vintage Youtube by Moma, a Brazilian advertising agency, as part of a 2010 “Everything Ages Fast” campaign.

At one point Andreessen offered up the “most obvious 8 business models for news now & in the future.” After listing today’s staples, (1) advertising and (2) subscriptions, he continued with (3) premium content (that is, “a paid tier on top of a free, ad-supported one”); (4) conferences and events; (5) cross-media (meaning that your news operation also generates books, movies, and the like); (6) crowd-funding; (7) micropayments, using Bitcoin; and (8) philanthropy. Nicholas Thompson, the editor of The New Yorker’s Web site and a co-founder of the digital sort-of-magazine The Atavist, chimed in with two more: (9) “while building product you’re passionate about, create software you then license widely!”—The Atavist’s approach—and (10) “fund investigative business stories + then short stocks before publishing,” a reference to the billionaire Mark Cuban’s controversial relationship with Sharesleuth.

Justin Fox, via Felix Salmon, Why I’m Joining Fusion.

So here, in a nutshell, are your news media business models.

Bonus: Om Malik, in an interview with the Italian version of Wired, talks about successful digital strategies.

Navigate the News
The Upshot, a new, data-driven venture from the New York Times, launches tomorrow. It will cover politics, policy and economic analysis, Quartz reported in March, and added:

David Leonhardt, the Times’ former Washington bureau chief, who is in charge of The Upshot, told Quartz that the new venture will have a dedicated staff of 15, including three full-time graphic journalists, and is on track for a launch this spring. “The idea behind the name is, we are trying to help readers get to the essence of issues and understand them in a contextual and conversational way,” Leonhardt says. “Obviously, we will be using data a lot to do that, not because data is some secret code, but because it’s a particularly effective way, when used in moderate doses, of explaining reality to people.”

Today, Leonhardt explained the why of it on Facebook:

You have no shortage of excellent news sources — sources that expertly report and analyze news as it happens. Like you, those of us at The Upshot rely on those sources every day. So why are we starting a new site to help people understand the news?…
…One, we believe many people don’t understand the news as well as they would like. They want to grasp big, complicated stories — Obamacare, inequality, political campaigns, the real-estate and stock markets — so well that they can explain the whys and hows of those stories to their friends, relatives and colleagues.
We believe we can help readers get to that level of understanding by writing in a direct, plain-spoken way, the same voice we might use when writing an email to a friend. We’ll be conversational without being dumbed down. We will build on the excellent journalism The New York Times is already producing, by helping readers make connections among different stories and understand how those stories fit together.

Image: @UpshotNYT announces its launch.

Navigate the News

The Upshot, a new, data-driven venture from the New York Times, launches tomorrow. It will cover politics, policy and economic analysis, Quartz reported in March, and added:

David Leonhardt, the Times’ former Washington bureau chief, who is in charge of The Upshot, told Quartz that the new venture will have a dedicated staff of 15, including three full-time graphic journalists, and is on track for a launch this spring. “The idea behind the name is, we are trying to help readers get to the essence of issues and understand them in a contextual and conversational way,” Leonhardt says. “Obviously, we will be using data a lot to do that, not because data is some secret code, but because it’s a particularly effective way, when used in moderate doses, of explaining reality to people.”

Today, Leonhardt explained the why of it on Facebook:

You have no shortage of excellent news sources — sources that expertly report and analyze news as it happens. Like you, those of us at The Upshot rely on those sources every day. So why are we starting a new site to help people understand the news?…

…One, we believe many people don’t understand the news as well as they would like. They want to grasp big, complicated stories — Obamacare, inequality, political campaigns, the real-estate and stock markets — so well that they can explain the whys and hows of those stories to their friends, relatives and colleagues.

We believe we can help readers get to that level of understanding by writing in a direct, plain-spoken way, the same voice we might use when writing an email to a friend. We’ll be conversational without being dumbed down. We will build on the excellent journalism The New York Times is already producing, by helping readers make connections among different stories and understand how those stories fit together.

Image: @UpshotNYT announces its launch.

Surveillance is the business model of the Internet. We build systems that spy on people in exchange for services. Corporations call it marketing.

Bruce Schneier, security technologist, in a presentation at the SOURCE Boston conference.

Via Security Week:

The data economy—the growth of mass data collection and tracking—is changing how power is perceived, Schneier said in his keynote speech. The Internet and technology has changed the impact a group can have on others, where dissidents can use the Internet to amplify their voices and extend their reach. Governments already have a lot of power to begin with, so when they take advantage of technology, their power is magnified, he said.

“That’s how you get weird situations where Syrian dissidents use Facebook to organize, and the government uses Facebook to arrest its citizens,” Schneier said.

Over the past few years, it’s become easier and cheaper to store data and search for the necessary item rather than to sort and delete. Email is a very good example of this shift in behavior. This change, spurred by the popularity of mobile devices and the push to move more data and services to the cloud has also made it easier to track user behavior. When corporations track users for marketing purposes, it seems benign, but the same actions come across as sinister when it’s the government…

…The government didn’t tell anyone they have to carry around a tracking device, but people now carry mobile devices. The government doesn’t require users to notify any agency about their relationships. Users will tell Facebook soon enough, Schneier noted. “Fundamentally, we have reached the golden age of surveillance because we are all being surveilled ubiquitously.”

Somewhat related programming note: Read up on Heartbleed, change your passwords everywhere.

Journalists my age and younger (I’ve been in the business since 2005—right around the time digital media emerged as a plausible career option) have never operated under the illusion that a staff job at The New Yorker or a New York Times column was in our future. But nearly a decade into the digital-media revolution, another shift has occurred. It’s not just that journalists understand former “prestige” jobs will be nearly impossible to get. Now we don’t even want them.
Ann Friedman, The New Dream Job, Columbia Journalism Review

Live video isn’t working for newspapers because they try to do TV (which has its own problems) & it’s not done well

via newsplexer:

In the past five years, the Times, the Journal, the Post, POLITICO and others have dedicated more resources to video than to any other new endeavor, and, to date, have lost money in every case, sources at those organizations said. Creating compelling television, it turned out, meant more than putting talking heads around a table. It required millions of dollars, new innovations, and, most important, experienced producers and compelling on-air talent.

Now, the hope for live digital television is all but dead, and the entire industry is on a “course correction.” The focus has shifted from live programming to brief video packages requiring minimal cost and production efforts. Even here, news organizations have struggled to turn video into a lucrative business, let alone a robust revenue generator. In 2013, the Times couldn’t even draw enough viewers to deliver on its advertisement deals.

FJP: Let’s bring lack of imagination into this equation.

Just as early radio emulated print, and early TV emulated radio, early Web-based video is emulating contemporary TV.

Think different.

When there are global events such as the recent Ukrainian uprising, hundreds of thousand tuned into Epreso TV. Same same when we watched Tahrir Square via Al Jazeera. 

This doesn’t happen often though so consider what the Web delivery system actually is: text, graphics, video, words, interaction. It’s not TV and shouldn’t try to be.

Your successful video is created within that context, and within that delivery mechanism. Think through your medium and program accordingly. — Michael

Who Controls The Media? Who Controls The FJP?
Let’s take this in order: Who controls the media?
If we’re talking traditional, corporate media it typically looks like this:
GE Owns: Comcast, NBC, Universal Pictures.
News-Corp Owns: Fox, Wall Street Journal, New York Post.
Disney Owns: ABC, ESPN, Pixar, Miramax.
Viacom Owns: MTV, Nickelodeon, BET, Paramount.
Time Warner Owns: CNN, HBO, Time, Warner Brothers.
CBS Owns: 60 Minutes, Showtime, NFL.com.
They all own way more than this, and I’d also add Clear Channel to the equation since it owns the majority of radio stations throughout the United States.
But you can’t talk about “owning the media” without talking about who owns cellular and Internet pipes. That includes companies like AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner Cable.
Online sources remain remarkably diverse despite reliance on upstream providers. People can reach and enjoy them despite the depth and breadth of overall marketshare of the properties mentioned above. That said, recent Network Neutrality rulings threaten our ability to access, interact with and enjoy this online diversity. Take, for instance, this AT&T patent application that would let it discriminate against online content and gives us access (or blocks access) accordingly:

A user of a communications network is prevented from consuming an excessive amount of channel bandwidth by restricting use of the channel in accordance with the type of data being downloaded to the user. The user is provided an initial number of credits. As the user consumes the credits, the data being downloaded is checked to determine if is permissible or non-permissible. Non-permissible data includes file-sharing files and movie downloads if user subscription does not permit such activity.

Similarly, you can’t talk about owning and influencing the media without paying attention to how our technology companies operate within the ecosystem. Namely, how our interaction with information and communication is mediated by the code created by the likes of Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple. As CUNY’s Lev Manovich has written:

Software has become a universal language, the interface to our imagination and the world. What electricity and the combustion engine were to the early 20th century, software is to the early 21st century. I think of it as a layer that permeates contemporary societies. If we want to understand today’s techniques of communication, representation, simulation, analysis, decision making, memory, vision, writing, and interaction, we must understand software.

So, that is more or less who controls American media.
Second question, who controls Future Journalism Project?
Ask a question, get an answer: meet the power behind the throne.
Most days though it’s me and Jihii. — Michael

Who Controls The Media? Who Controls The FJP?

Let’s take this in order: Who controls the media?

If we’re talking traditional, corporate media it typically looks like this:

  • GE Owns: Comcast, NBC, Universal Pictures.
  • News-Corp Owns: Fox, Wall Street Journal, New York Post.
  • Disney Owns: ABC, ESPN, Pixar, Miramax.
  • Viacom Owns: MTV, Nickelodeon, BET, Paramount.
  • Time Warner Owns: CNN, HBO, Time, Warner Brothers.
  • CBS Owns: 60 Minutes, Showtime, NFL.com.

They all own way more than this, and I’d also add Clear Channel to the equation since it owns the majority of radio stations throughout the United States.

But you can’t talk about “owning the media” without talking about who owns cellular and Internet pipes. That includes companies like AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner Cable.

Online sources remain remarkably diverse despite reliance on upstream providers. People can reach and enjoy them despite the depth and breadth of overall marketshare of the properties mentioned above. That said, recent Network Neutrality rulings threaten our ability to access, interact with and enjoy this online diversity. Take, for instance, this AT&T patent application that would let it discriminate against online content and gives us access (or blocks access) accordingly:

A user of a communications network is prevented from consuming an excessive amount of channel bandwidth by restricting use of the channel in accordance with the type of data being downloaded to the user. The user is provided an initial number of credits. As the user consumes the credits, the data being downloaded is checked to determine if is permissible or non-permissible. Non-permissible data includes file-sharing files and movie downloads if user subscription does not permit such activity.

Similarly, you can’t talk about owning and influencing the media without paying attention to how our technology companies operate within the ecosystem. Namely, how our interaction with information and communication is mediated by the code created by the likes of Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple. As CUNY’s Lev Manovich has written:

Software has become a universal language, the interface to our imagination and the world. What electricity and the combustion engine were to the early 20th century, software is to the early 21st century. I think of it as a layer that permeates contemporary societies. If we want to understand today’s techniques of communication, representation, simulation, analysis, decision making, memory, vision, writing, and interaction, we must understand software.

So, that is more or less who controls American media.

Second question, who controls Future Journalism Project?

Ask a question, get an answer: meet the power behind the throne.

Most days though it’s me and Jihii. — Michael

The NSA didn’t wake up and say, ‘Let’s just spy on everybody.’ They looked up and said, ‘Wow, corporations are spying on everybody. Let’s get ourselves a copy.
Bruce Schneier, Cryptographer and security specialist, via Reform Corporate Surveillance, a parody site of Reform Government Surveillance, created by Aral Balkan, Founder of Indie Phone
The federal government made enough money on student loans over the last year that, if it wanted, it could provide maximum-level Pell Grants of $5,645 to 7.3 million college students.

The $41.3-billion profit for the 2013 fiscal year is down $3.6 billion from the previous year but still enough to pay for one year of tuition at the University of Michigan for 2,955,426 Michigan residents.

It’s a higher profit level than all but two companies in the world: Exxon Mobil cleared $44.9 billion in 2012, and Apple cleared $41.7 billion.

Bloomberg News Spiking Sensitive China Stories

Via The New York Times

The decision came in an early evening call to four journalists huddled in a Hong Kong conference room. On the line 12 time zones away in New York was their boss, Matthew Winkler, the longtime editor in chief of Bloomberg News. And they were frustrated by what he was telling them.

The investigative report they had been working on for the better part of a year, which detailed the hidden financial ties between one of the wealthiest men in China and the families of top Chinese leaders, would not be published.

In the call late last month, Mr. Winkler defended his decision, comparing it to the self-censorship by foreign news bureaus trying to preserve their ability to report inside Nazi-era Germany, according to Bloomberg employees familiar with the discussion.

“He said, ‘If we run the story, we’ll be kicked out of China,’ ” one of the employees said. Less than a week later, a second article, about the children of senior Chinese officials employed by foreign banks, was also declared dead, employees said.

Winkler denies that the stories have been killed.

As The Times notes, the Bloomberg Web site has been blocked inside of China since it published a 2012 series of stories on the personal wealth of family members of Chinese leaders. Bloomberg reporters, too, have been unable to get residency visas to the country since that time.

Subscriptions to its $20,000+ business news terminals have also declined within the country, The Times reports.

The Times finds itself in a similar boat. Its Chinese-language site has been blocked since it published a 2012 article on the family wealth of then Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, and it has been able to secure residency visas for its journalists.

Video: Next Media creates a cartoon mocking Bloomberg News for self-censorship.

UPDATEBloomberg News ‘Disappointed’ in NY Times’ ‘Absolutely False’ Front Page Story, via Medaite.

5 Key Data Points about Nonprofit News
The Knight Foundation recently released a report about the state of nonprofit news and its progress toward sustainability. Pew summarizes five key data points from the study:

50%: The percentage of nonprofit revenue coming from foundation grants in 2012. That still amounts to the biggest source of funding for the majority of the nonprofits in the report. But it also reflects an important move toward diversifying revenue streams. As recently as 2010, foundation money accounted for 65% of the revenue for these 18 nonprofits. At the same time, the Knight report shows that these nonprofits, on average, are generating a higher percentage of revenue from individual donations and other sources, such as events and sponsorships.
8,000: The approximate number of individual donors that, in 2012, supported the 18 nonprofits studied by Knight. That’s roughly double the number of donors counted in 2010. While many of these donors are contributing large sums, several of the organizations benefit from the support of many small donors. At MinnPost, for example, 30% of all individual donations were in amounts less than $1,000, and they serve as a measure of community engagement.
54%: The combined increase in the budgets of the 18 nonprofits studied between 2010 and 2012. While some of the increase is attributable to large one-time events, such as theacquisition of Bay Citizen by the Center for Investigative Reporting, the growth signals expanded organizational capacity. But what are they spending their money on? The Knight report finds that investment in editorial operations accounts for much of these budgets, while investment in technology or business development accounts for considerably less. That dovetails with the recent Pew Research report in which nearly two-thirds (62%) of the 93 nonprofit organizations surveyed identified “finding time to focus on the business side” as a major challenge.
2 minutes: The approximate average time spent per visit on the nonprofit news websites. For more than half of the outlets studied, it is less than the average time spent two years earlier. While audience engagement measures like these are cause for concern, there is also widespread debate within the nonprofit news community about the best ways to measure audience engagement, and an acknowledgement that the standard metrics are inadequate. Those broader questions about assessing impact may well be the next big nut to crack for nonprofit journalism.
181: The number of events staged in 2012 by the 18 profiled nonprofit news outlets. These gatherings—which range from large events like Voice of San Diego’s Politifest to smaller meetups—represent a potentially significant source of income and an opportunity for brand-building for nonprofits. All told, these drew some 20,000 people. And so far in 2013, the Texas Tribune is on track to generate more than $1 million on events and conferences.

Bonus: Check out news-biz.org, which is a goldmine of reporting and research on nonprofit news practices as maintained by Texas Tribune Fellow Jake Batsell, who is exploring and documenting innovative business models/best practices in the nonprofit news world.
Image: Cover of the report’s slide-deck. The whole thing is pretty cutely illustrated.

5 Key Data Points about Nonprofit News

The Knight Foundation recently released a report about the state of nonprofit news and its progress toward sustainability. Pew summarizes five key data points from the study:

50%: The percentage of nonprofit revenue coming from foundation grants in 2012. That still amounts to the biggest source of funding for the majority of the nonprofits in the report. But it also reflects an important move toward diversifying revenue streams. As recently as 2010, foundation money accounted for 65% of the revenue for these 18 nonprofits. At the same time, the Knight report shows that these nonprofits, on average, are generating a higher percentage of revenue from individual donations and other sources, such as events and sponsorships.

8,000: The approximate number of individual donors that, in 2012, supported the 18 nonprofits studied by Knight. That’s roughly double the number of donors counted in 2010. While many of these donors are contributing large sums, several of the organizations benefit from the support of many small donors. At MinnPost, for example, 30% of all individual donations were in amounts less than $1,000, and they serve as a measure of community engagement.

54%: The combined increase in the budgets of the 18 nonprofits studied between 2010 and 2012. While some of the increase is attributable to large one-time events, such as theacquisition of Bay Citizen by the Center for Investigative Reporting, the growth signals expanded organizational capacity. But what are they spending their money on? The Knight report finds that investment in editorial operations accounts for much of these budgets, while investment in technology or business development accounts for considerably less. That dovetails with the recent Pew Research report in which nearly two-thirds (62%) of the 93 nonprofit organizations surveyed identified “finding time to focus on the business side” as a major challenge.

2 minutes: The approximate average time spent per visit on the nonprofit news websites. For more than half of the outlets studied, it is less than the average time spent two years earlier. While audience engagement measures like these are cause for concern, there is also widespread debate within the nonprofit news community about the best ways to measure audience engagement, and an acknowledgement that the standard metrics are inadequate. Those broader questions about assessing impact may well be the next big nut to crack for nonprofit journalism.

181: The number of events staged in 2012 by the 18 profiled nonprofit news outlets. These gatherings—which range from large events like Voice of San Diego’s Politifest to smaller meetups—represent a potentially significant source of income and an opportunity for brand-building for nonprofits. All told, these drew some 20,000 people. And so far in 2013, the Texas Tribune is on track to generate more than $1 million on events and conferences.

Bonus: Check out news-biz.org, which is a goldmine of reporting and research on nonprofit news practices as maintained by Texas Tribune Fellow Jake Batsell, who is exploring and documenting innovative business models/best practices in the nonprofit news world.

Image: Cover of the report’s slide-deck. The whole thing is pretty cutely illustrated.

A Mysterious Buddhist Kingdom Grapples with its Journalistic Future
Bhutan is a tiny, landlocked Buddhist kingdom up in the Himalayas with a pretty mysterious reputation. Its government has practiced modernization and development through its Gross National Happiness goals: sustainable development, environmental protection, cultural preservation and good governance. Theoretically, it’s a little Utopia nestled between India and China. In reality, it’s got debt and governance problems like the rest of us.
Jon Funabiki, founder of the Bay Area’s Renaissance Journalism center, recently traveled to Bhutan to help administer a conference on the future of journalism by the Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy. (Keep in mind: BCMD is one of the very first civil society organizations in Bhutan.)
The country has experienced a series of firsts in the last fifteen years. Television was introduced in 1999. 2008 saw its first democratic elections for parliament. And now the internet and social media have arrived, along with an interesting set of developments. Funabiki writes:

This past July, Bhutan held its second national elections for parliament elections. Many Bhutanese—including some of the journalists—were shocked by the levels of acrimony, rumormongering, and anonymous or veiled accusations. This, after all, is a society known for nurturing compassion and harmony, where villagers are accustomed to the intimacy of face-to-face dialogue and people speak admiringly about the nomadic yak herders who leave a pile of firewood for the next traveler.

On the one hand, journalists in Bhutan are striving and struggle to bring to light the voices of the majority of the population—who are poor, and living in extremely rural areas. They fear government coverage of Gross National Happiness has been too shallow and desire to cover it fairly, accurately and critically. 
On the other hand, the country’s economy is so small that it doesn’t have enough businesses that can purchase media advertising, so journalists are somewhat stuck, writes Funabiki:

According to the Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy, the government accounts for 80 percent of all newspaper and broadcast advertising. This means that the government could close any news outlet simply by shutting off the flow of advertising. So far, the government has divided its advertising pot equally among the different news outlets in an effort to try to be fair—remember, this is Bhutan—but even this does not provide enough revenue. Journalists complain of low salaries and late paychecks. Freelance journalists run the risk of not getting paid. One outfit stopped printing its newspaper and publishes only on the Internet. Did I mention that largest newspaper, Kuensel, and the main television and radio network, Bhutan Broadcasting Service, are 51 percent owned by the government?

FJP: What to watch for? How media makers will shape their industry according to their country’s unique context. We’re fascinated.
Bonus: Columbia University’s School of Int’l & Public Affairs has also worked with journalists in Bhutan, on a trip last year headed up by Professors Anya Schiffrin and Joseph Stiglitz. Read about it here.
Image: Paro Dzhong, Bhutan (via Jean-Marie Hullot on Flickr)

A Mysterious Buddhist Kingdom Grapples with its Journalistic Future

Bhutan is a tiny, landlocked Buddhist kingdom up in the Himalayas with a pretty mysterious reputation. Its government has practiced modernization and development through its Gross National Happiness goals: sustainable development, environmental protection, cultural preservation and good governance. Theoretically, it’s a little Utopia nestled between India and China. In reality, it’s got debt and governance problems like the rest of us.

Jon Funabiki, founder of the Bay Area’s Renaissance Journalism center, recently traveled to Bhutan to help administer a conference on the future of journalism by the Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy. (Keep in mind: BCMD is one of the very first civil society organizations in Bhutan.)

The country has experienced a series of firsts in the last fifteen years. Television was introduced in 1999. 2008 saw its first democratic elections for parliament. And now the internet and social media have arrived, along with an interesting set of developments. Funabiki writes:

This past July, Bhutan held its second national elections for parliament elections. Many Bhutanese—including some of the journalists—were shocked by the levels of acrimony, rumormongering, and anonymous or veiled accusations. This, after all, is a society known for nurturing compassion and harmony, where villagers are accustomed to the intimacy of face-to-face dialogue and people speak admiringly about the nomadic yak herders who leave a pile of firewood for the next traveler.

On the one hand, journalists in Bhutan are striving and struggle to bring to light the voices of the majority of the population—who are poor, and living in extremely rural areas. They fear government coverage of Gross National Happiness has been too shallow and desire to cover it fairly, accurately and critically.

On the other hand, the country’s economy is so small that it doesn’t have enough businesses that can purchase media advertising, so journalists are somewhat stuck, writes Funabiki:

According to the Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy, the government accounts for 80 percent of all newspaper and broadcast advertising. This means that the government could close any news outlet simply by shutting off the flow of advertising. So far, the government has divided its advertising pot equally among the different news outlets in an effort to try to be fair—remember, this is Bhutan—but even this does not provide enough revenue. Journalists complain of low salaries and late paychecks. Freelance journalists run the risk of not getting paid. One outfit stopped printing its newspaper and publishes only on the Internet. Did I mention that largest newspaper, Kuensel, and the main television and radio network, Bhutan Broadcasting Service, are 51 percent owned by the government?

FJP: What to watch for? How media makers will shape their industry according to their country’s unique context. We’re fascinated.

Bonus: Columbia University’s School of Int’l & Public Affairs has also worked with journalists in Bhutan, on a trip last year headed up by Professors Anya Schiffrin and Joseph Stiglitz. Read about it here.

Image: Paro Dzhong, Bhutan (via Jean-Marie Hullot on Flickr)