Why NGS should embrace the Groupon model (cont’d)

As part of the Nieman Journalism Lab’s preview of 2011,
web pioneer Dave Winer hits a note
that’s a favorite of ours here at Society Matters:

“… How can we create something that has a market? If [news people] asked that question instead, they would restructure their activity. Because there are things similar to news that have generated huge wealth. Not hidden, in plain sight.

The first usurpage was of course Craigslist. It wasn’t so obvious then that this was the natural domain of the press, because Craigslist made a small fraction of the money the news industry used to make from classifieds. It looked like CL was just undermining the press, not competing with it. But Groupon — this is the fastest-growing company of all time. The founder says what they do is find ways for people to get out and enjoy their city. And they make a boatload of money doing it.

Here’s one way of looking at what both Groupon and local news organizations do — they put smart hard-working people into the field to keep tabs on what people in the community are doing. Some of what they are doing is robbing and killing each other — that’s what news is interested in. Another part of what they’re doing is buying from and selling to each other. Groupon is making huge bucks on that.

It seems there’s still time for a philosophy change in the news business. Become more focused on the commerce of your communities, and the opportunities to make money will become more apparent. Seems like common sense to me.

Dave Winer

— Dave Winer is a visiting scholar in journalism at NYU, and half the team behind the Rebooting the News podcast. The New York Times called him “The Protoblogger.” PC World called him “the father of modern-day content distribution.” And he was named one of the 25 Most Influential People on the Web by BusinessWeek.

Seems like common sense to us, too.

What about you, John?

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  • Greg

    “It seems there’s still time for a philosophy change in the news business. Become more focused on the commerce of your communities, and the opportunities to make money will become more apparent. Seems like common sense to me.” Is this all news organizations should be concerned with: covering commerce and making money? Perhaps some context is missing here, but we still need coverage of, yes, robbing and killing, and also good news. Am I missing something?

    • Hey Greg – I don’t think Dave meant that newspapers should cover commerce, as in write PR copy for local companies. I think he means that publishers should be aware of who is spending money where, and how those relationships are affected by technology. So, a more tech-savvy publisher might have seen tech’s impact on the classifieds, and strarted Craigslist; or seen tech’s impact on coupons, and started Groupon.

      Publishers are groping for a business model that might replace money for content. And Groupon is a great way for a large group of people to enjoy savings they’ll never get on their own. As you know, that’s where I think the value still is for NGS: with its members. Because after the advertisers are finished riding The Brand to their advantage & for their pleasure (see: Shell, NG & the Great Energy Challenge), they will get up, get dressed & leave.

      So, yes, there’s plenty of room for good news. But the problem remains: How will NG pay for it as print dies & TV channels go poof?

      More here: http://bit.ly/eqrJlI (in comments)

      And thanks for stopping by.

  • Greg

    I just found it hard to fathom what he was saying. Very vaguely expressed and could use some clear examples. If your interpretation is correct, there’s some merit in the idea. Clearly any news organization needs income and subscription+general ads seems to be a dead or dying model. The power of membership I completely agree with.

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