Rick Waghorn is a sports journalist who I (and others) have written about and talked about on a number of occasions ini recent months. He is a great example of both the risks and opportunities that the Internet’s disruption of traditional publishing is bringing to journalists.
After being made redundant by a regional newspaper earlier this year, he set up his own web site and continued covering the same patch he had covered for the paper — the local football club.
But commericailly, it’s tough to do this. In a comment to an earlier post, Rick wrote:
I’d like to think that I produce pieces of meaningful journalism – and with 100,000 page views so far for the month of January so far, I’ve got some half-decent traffic numbers on my side as doing pure journalism – minus the time/distribution constraints of a printing press – works, albeit in the little world that is provincial football reporting.
That said, however, commercially it is a tough nut to crack and whilst I hunker down for a reasonably tight spring, I suspect the answer – for me, at least – will ultimately include at least five income streams which, together, may yet get me there. For somewhere in the midst of banner advertising locally bought and sourced; straight subscriptions for premium content; affiliate advertising; premium text alerts; a soccer betting portal; the ability, in theory, to do discount ‘bulk’ subscription deals to every office worker sat in Norwich Union just as the Daily Mail might drop papers off in Little Chefs; and, finally/possibly/eventually, servicing electronic sports desks with syndicated match reports, I ought to be able to fund my work-from-home living… as, in theory, ought a mini, ‘news’ team syndicating their copy back into bigger news hubs.
But it ain’t easy, trust me.
This nicely sums up both the posts I wrote yesterday. Online journalism is being shaped by entrepreneurial journalists like Rick, who have recognised that their fate is no longer inextricably tied up with the fate of big print publishing companies. The Internet is disrupting publishing, not *journalism. *Journalism students * *should be paying close attention to journalists like Rick.
But the flip side is that the economics don’t quite add up yet. RickWaghorn.co.uk may be excellent editorially, but the commercial side is proving difficult. He may eventually get it to work as a sustainable micro-publication — as several bloggers have already demonstrated that it can be done.
But is a site like RickWaghorn.co.uk scalable? Don’t all the economics of micropubs go right out the window once you try to add a second employee to the payroll? That’s a manifestation of the journalism gap problem — online revenues aren’t yet fully replacing the declining revenues of mass market print journalism. One business model is under strain, but its replacement hasn’t really been found yet.