New ways to make journalism pay – two views on a successful conference

New ways to make journalism pay – two continental NUJ members give their views on a successful conference. NB.The downloadable report on the conference at the foot of the page, giving tips from the more successful operators, is well worth reading!

Worth the money

The London Freelance Branch event “New ways to make journalism pay” on 16 January 2010 was sold out, and it’s easy to see why. The event had speakers who were successfully making money via the web. Despite all the doom and gloom there is, conference-goers heard, there is more than one new business model out there.

One chap had left his northern English newspaper to start a web-only business website which now employs ten people. He had an investor, but start-up cash isn’t always a must. Another young lad had done everything on his own: from designing the site to marketing it and now, selling enough ads to make a living.

There were other stories of small-scale web-based ‘micro-journalism’ doing the rounds: one reporter is evidently making a living covering SE1 in London. Are these the first signs of a revival of local news?

And then there was Paul Staines, aka Guido Fawkes, the political blogger and bane of the establishment. Thanks to the web he has a forum that cannot be ignored. What a breath of fresh air amid the tales of redundancies and piss-poor rates to hear the journalist’s skills still have commercial value. Well done to the London Freelance Branch. At ten quid for the day, it was well worth the money.

(Justin Stares is a freelance journalist based in Brussels).

Focus on the audience

On Making the Web Pay, David Parkin, ex-Yorkshire Post business editor, launched www.thebusinessdesk.com in 2007, a business news website aimed at Yorkshire businessmen. It has now become two profitable websites and is expanding into other topics covered by traditional newspapers. The site attracts advertisers by focusing on quality writing and constantly-updated exclusive information (slogan: ‘Tomorrow’s News Today’). He employs five full-time journalists and thinks the key to a successful online publication is understanding readers and giving them what they want.

The issue of Making Blogs Pay was addressed by Conrad Quilty-Harper, a former contributor to www.engadget.com and blogger at http://spalpeen.co.uk, followed by Guido Fawkes (Paul Staines) of the eponymous and lucrative political blog (http://order-order.com/). Both agreed that most bloggers are paid peanuts and that the way to attract lucrative advertising is to target a niche audience and expand it as much as possible. Paul added that having a high internet profile can generate spin-off income in consultancy fees, and from being “a media tart”. At least he was honest!

On Making Local Media Pay, Eric Gordon, founder of Camden New Journal, an established employee-owned independent London local paper, and Angie Sammons, editor of www.liverpoolconfidential.com , a successful online magazine, spoke passionately about their belief in getting back to the roots of local journalism by winning a community’s trust and support.

The three workshops at the end of the day reflected the main topics covered. The main conclusions were:

  • Local media – We should stop working for free; employee ownership is the answer.
  • Making the web pay – needs a special interest/niche market. No one had experience of actually making a living from Google Adwords.
  • The NUJ could run a ‘Rate for Online Ads’ column, similar to the Rate for the Job.
  • Funding – the NUJ could run a one-day workshop, bringing together people with direct experience of setting up journalists’ co-operatives.

Pete Murray, NUJ President, concluded by saying that the NUJ is in favour of public funding to help support quality journalism, and of stronger regulation to limit the concentration of media in fewer and fewer hands. The union also supports the French idea of a ‘Google tax’ to prevent a free-for-all internet culture and the Scottish proposal to give 18-year-olds free subscriptions to newspapers.

I left in thoughtful mood, better-informed and pleased to note the multiplicity of viewpoints represented from speakers who had agreed to come for no fee.

(Annabel Simms is a freelance journalist based in Paris).

“Download a pdf report on the conference, giving tips from some of the more successful operators, here.

A report on the conference by LFB’s Matt Salusbury is also available at www.londonfreelance.org/fl/1002ways.html