Few creative minds enjoy financial negotiations with their clients. For years the fees for journalists, photographers and other content creators have been falling due to cost-cutting by publishers. This has resulted in a race to the bottom amongst creative minds and greatly reduced quality. This is an unsustainable process, which can only be stopped by implementing different business models. Crowdfunding is not only an exciting, but also a fair model.
Most analysts agree that the market price for content is falling towards zero. Since readers can access most content for free on the internet, publishers now see content as a commodity and creative minds as suppliers that need to be squeezed hard to stay profitable. Their reasoning is flawed for at least two reasons. First of all, if prices would really fall to zero, professionals like journalists, photographers and video-editors would lose their income and look for new jobs. Publishers would struggle to find the most talented content creators, and have to resort to amateurs. Secondly, the content created by these amateurs cannot match the quality that consumers are used to with professional publications. Consumers would not be willing to pay the same for less quality, leading to falling income for publishers.
Cost-cutting is a dead end
Cost-cutting for content is therefore an unsustainable strategy, triggering a vicious circle that leaves publishers, content creators and readers empty-handed. The fall-out of this race to the bottom is already clearly visible: falling circulation of print media, journalists struggling to balance their budgets and eroding credibility of media. If media are to fulfill their investigative and informative role in democratic society, something has to give way. Publishing houses have hid their content behind paywalls and distributed publications as ePapers. Readers however have mostly be unwilling to pay for these solutions however; paywall subscriptions and ePaper circulation are mostly far below their print equivalents.
A new editorial model
We believe that the solution to the race to the bottom doesn’t lie in new technology, but in a new editorial model. Of course media must embrace ePaper, video and podcast functionality – readers’ reading habits have changed and products should evolve accordingly. Just keeping publications up-to-date isn’t something that readers are willing to pay for. Direct contact with, and support of, content creators is much more exciting and transparent: readers can provide editors with interesting suggestions, journalists can check their ideas with consumers and backroom editorial dealings are eliminated. This results in higher quality, a better fit to readers’ preferences and increased credibility. If readers can directly pay for the work of journalists, photographers and other content creators instead of through a publisher, transparency and fairness are restored. After all, most readers have a better feeling paying for creative minds they are in direct contact with, than for the services of an abstract entity like a publishing house.
The New Normal establishes a direct link between readers and content creators through crowdfunding. Backers of our Multimedia Magazine get direct access to our editorial team, and the money raised in crowdfunding is spent directly on content and copies of the magazine for those backers. This means that creators can negotiate reasonable prices for their content through the crowdfunding proposals for their readers. If readers are unimpressed by the proposed themes or their pricing, the project doesn’t start. Readers aren’t locked into a subscription and content creators don’t lose time on projects that don’t pay off. This leaves both creators and readers with a better deal, and the publisher with a better product.