Sunday, October 31, 2010

Community News Sites: Alive if Unprofitable

A new report from J-Lab's Jan Schaffer offers a straightforward look at the status of community sites funded through the John L. and James S. Knight Foundation. This is a well-designed report that can work as teaching or research material.

The report's colorful touches will help to keep undergrads interested.

Titled New Voices: What Works, the 36-page report does just what it suggests. It identifies some of the aspects that have worked and some that haven't since the organization began in 2005 to seed start-up sites to supplement news and information in their communities.
Simply put, we examined what worked and what didn’t, what made for robust sites or led to disappointment.
The J-Lab, the Institute for Interactive Journalism, offers its own summary of the report that you can read here. You can download the report in pdf form as well.

Among the findings in a section called Ten Key Takeaways are points familiar to those in CCJIG who have been investigating citizen journalism functions. Among them:
  • Most volunteer journalists don't last long after training. Fewer than one in 10 will become regular contributors.
  • University projects that rely on students need to find ways to keep their momentum even when students are not in school.
  • While some sites are finding ways to sustain themselves, a business model has yet to emerge to cover salaries and reap profits.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

“It is most appropriate for the U.S. to train journalists in foreign countries”

In America, participatory journalism might happen when citizens take part in gathering news or reporters act as participant-observers.

In Liberia, the English-speaking republic on the West coast of Africa, civic journalism appeals to reporters. But journalism too often is a negotiation with either poverty or a plaintiff-friendly libel environment. A result: Serious hurdles to reporting politics accurately and completely.

Mitch Land, interim dean of UNTs Mayborn School of Journalism, is visiting Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, on invitation by the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia. Professor Lands task is to train Liberian journalists in preparation for the general election scheduled for October of 2011.

His 10-day visit, which began September 28, has sparked discussion of whether the U.S. Department of State should train, or influence the training of, journalists in foreign countries. Going by local press coveragehere, here and herethe visit has been of some import. Professor Land spoke to me via Skype from the Mamba Point Hotel in Monrovia, in an hour-long conversation punctuated by two electrical power cuts at his end.

Full disclosure: Professor Land is my colleague at the School; although I spared no question, this Q&A should not be considered an exercise in journalism. I report it on his request and because it engages important issues such as American journalistic intervention.

Mitch, what are you doing in Liberia?

I've come to train reporters and editors in Liberia to help them prepare for the 2011 elections. About 30 editors and 40 reporters attended [my workshop]. I spent three days a week with reporters, interrupted with the 46th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Press Union of Liberia in Buchanan, Liberia, which is a three-hour drive from Monrovia, the capital city.

Is it appropriate for the U.S. Department of State to train journalists in foreign countries?

Absolutely. The U.S. State Department’s public diplomacy section is tasked with building capacity—which includes providing training for journalists—in every country where the U.S. has an embassy. I provide the material as I see fit with no interference from the U.S. government.

I trained publishers in Cameroon in 1994 and that was the case then, too.

What is your perception of Liberia's democracy?

Well, the phrase used around the international community is this: Liberia is stable but fragile. Warlords who carried on the long civil war, which was made into a documentary titled the Uncivil War, are running for election.

What are some issues of press freedom in Liberia? For example, is a consolidation of ownership causing wealthy parties to have a disproportionate influence? Is there any strong-arm political interference?

The top three issues I’ve observed: 1. Resisting the economic temptation of receiving help from politicians who would wish to influence the reporting in their direction; 2. Lack of economic resources to do their jobto get out to the rural areas and serve the goals of civic journalism; 3. Working together, rather than always in competition.

What did the journalists take away from your keynote speech at the PUL event?

I tried to emphasize the importance of balancing their freedom to report on the elections in 2011 and their responsibility to do a professional job. Establishing credibility in the face of overwhelming odds; their work is an uphill battle.

Political leaders and political candidates are reluctant to confide in reporters if they believe they're not prepared to report ethically and remain professional. Of course, this can also be an excuse for politicians not to be transparent.

How would you define credibility? What are some of those “overwhelming odds” that Liberian journalists face?

It means the same thing here as it means in the United States, reporting ethically and following professional standards that include rigorous fact-checking, proper identification of sources and correct attribution. One of the first object lessons was a photo of me, which appeared on the back page of one of the leading newspapers: the cutline identified me as the chairman of the National Elections Commission.

Overwhelming odds: These journalists work with limited resources, such as lack of funding to travel upcountry to cover stories; poor roads and lack of transport options, poorly equipped and dimly lit newsrooms, and the biggest drawback—paltry salaries.

This is due, in large part, to the struggling economy here as well as to the consequences of a bloody civil war. The electrical grid was severely damaged when the major energy station was sabotaged. The president of the country [Ellen Johnson Sirleaf] has made this one of her major priorities since being elected in 2005.

What is Liberia’s media scene like? What newspapers or other news outlets were represented at your workshop?

The number of media outlets changes all the time because independent newspapers are springing up in this open and free environment. I might add here that the Liberian legislature has just passed an open-records bill: FOIA. The president has promised to sign the bill.

Four to six daily newspapers seem to dominate, but an average print run for any one of these newspapers is only 5,000 copies: the Daily Observer, FrontPage, the National Chronicle, New Liberia, the News, the Inquirer, and New Vision. I would say the most innovative of all these is FrontPage, which started out as an online newspaper. The literacy rate here is very low.

Among the participants were about four community radio stations, which was very encouraging because this means that rural areas are getting news where so many people cannot read or write. Also two television stations were present. Of the 40 reporters, at least 8 were from community radio stations.

Do Liberian newspapers endorse election candidates, as American newspapers do?

It's likely that two or three newspapers tend to be partisan. This is a problem. We covered this issue pretty thoroughly. It's not always out in the open, but yes, it is my understanding that this took place during the last election.

The journalists [in my workshop] agreed that this isn't a good practice; it's only acceptable if the newspaper makes it very clear that this candidate is being endorsed, but the endorsement appears on the editorial page and must not influence the quality of the reporting.

As you know, Jay Rosen has published and written quite a bit on his own blog about the importance of reporters and editors creating a Citizens Agenda for covering elections. His ideas inspired my lecture on this point, as well as the assignments I gave both cohorts. The assignment was to give them a trial run at creating a Citizens Agenda.

They really got into this and seemed to become excited about the role journalists here can play in at least mitigating against the usual “horse-race” coverage we see so much, especially in the United States. Lewis T. Togba, a reporter for the Liberia Broadcasting System said, “Formulating the citizens agenda means a lot to me and was very new ground for me.” That sentiment was shared widely during the workshop. Chloe Roberts, a producer for The Star Newspaper, gave the three-day workshop a 100% on her evaluation form.

What is a “citizens agenda”? Did your workshop make a direct difference to any Liberian journalist?

I had the participants separate into groups of six persons each. Each group had to come up with what they thought are the most important issues Liberian citizens would tell them mattered in the upcoming election cycle.

Second, we talked about preparing to cover elections ahead of time. For example, covering speecheswhat to look for, how to create a checklist so that before a speech is given, they have an idea of attendance; have their interviews set up ahead of time; the three-source rule of reporting a story, even speeches, etc. Third, anticipating problems that occur on election day: number of polling stations; adequate number of ballots; phone numbers of election supervisors. Fourth, best practices in journalism: my 25 tips for effective writing; reporting ideas from my colleagues at the Mayborn School: Kathie Hinnen, Tracy Everbach, George Getschow and yourself. Finally, I talked to them about the differences between traditional journalism and public/civic journalism.

Please travel safely back to Denton!

Thanks, Nikhil. As I de-briefed with Dehab Ghebreab, the American public affairs officer, I told her, “The older I get the more I realize how important it is to do things that matter the most in one’s career.” Working with journalists here matters a great deal to me: helping to build journalism capacity in a part of the world I have come to love.


Photo: Mitch Land (left) with Ernest Kiazolu, who is information assistant in the public diplomacy section of the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia and formerly a reporter and producer with Star Radio, Monrovia. (Picture by Peter Quaqua, president of the Press Union of Liberia)

Other interviews:

Dan Gillmor: "Emerging entry barriers may deal a 'hammer blow' to media innovations"

Robert G. Picard: "News organizations will rely upon a greater variety of revenue streams..."

Jim O'Shea: "Newspapers have served the interests of investors at the expense of readers"

Leonard Witt: "I want conversation, I want collective intelligence, but I also want sound journalism"

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Emerging entry barriers may deal a “hammer blow” to new media innovations

Dan Gillmor has worked for many newspapers, but he is not quite an ink-stained wretch. His passion is for digital media. Ever since he operated a blog for the San Jose Mercury News in the mid-1990s, Mr. Gillmor has found a studious obsession in the intersections of technology and journalism.

Nowadays, Mr. Gillmor directs the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University. He says he loves it when “risk is at the bottom of the pile” of an entrepreneur’s concerns. Risk-taking is important, but ownership, appreciating ambiguity, and moving quickly are essential.

“Smart companies don’t punish failed ideas even if they don’t give any incentives for failure,” Mr. Gillmor told a panel on business models at the AEJMC conference in Denver August 7. Media operations ought to encourage entrepreneurial processes internally and not punish failures when individuals took appropriate, smart risks. In this instant-messenger conversation with Nikhil Moro of UNT’s Mayborn School of Journalism, Mr. Gillmor offered an expansion of that panel presentation, and then some.

Moro: You have said, “Digital media have a nearly zero barrier to entry.” Is that changing, though? Would we do well to expect entry barriers over the next five years?

Gillmor: The barriers to creating things are dropping steadily and are nearly zero now. That trend will continue. But we could well see new barriers arise, and they'll be designed to a) protect the incumbents; b) assist law enforcement; and c) keep dissent in line. They'll revolve around net neutrality, intellectual property and public safety issues, which will be used to clamp down on what we can do online.

For example, if the telecom companies get what they want on net neutrality -- the right to determine which bits their customers can bring down to their devices, in what order and at what speed, if they are delivered at all -- that will be a hammer blow to innovative new media services. It’s not an exaggeration to say that free speech in the digital age depends on the choices residing in the hands of the customers, not the carriers.

On intellectual property, Hollywood and its allies are continuing to push for ever-stricter copyright laws and enforcement that moves us toward a pay-per-view world of media where we need permission to use anything anyone else has created in the creation of a new work. That’s contrary to our traditions, and it would hamper innovation and creativity. All culture and science stands on the shoulders of what came before; the copyright system threatens both. Licensing is a related issue. Most recently, the software industry won a truly terrible ruling in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, saying that software licenses allow companies to restrict use of their products solely to the person who bought them, preventing the person from selling or even giving it to someone else. How would you like it if the book publisher said only you could read the book you just bought? Libraries see what this means and they are quite correctly terrified -- and we all should be.

Then you have the many people, especially in law enforcement, who’d clamp down on free speech in the name of public safety. The latest example is the shameful actions of a group of state attorneys general who basically forced craigslist to shut down its adult-services section. They had absolutely no legal basis for this; in fact, the law specifically shields Internet service providers from liability for what others post on their sites, provided they take down illegal material upon notification. In addition, craigslist had gone way further than others in this market to assist law enforcement in its investigations of prostitution, especially child prostitution. The rest of the Internet industry sat quiet while these posturing politicians whacked craigslist, and they’re going to regret it; there will be a push soon to repeal the law that shields providers from liability for what others post -- and that law is a principal reason we have a free and robust debate online today. (Note: Craig Newmark is a friend, and he has been a funder of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, where I was a Fellow.)

Moro: You seem to take a libertarian approach to content regulation, frowning upon a search product with Google’s market dominance having a “nannyish approach.” Google Instant should not be “making decisions for us that it should let us be making,” you have said. Why does self-regulation work? If users chose to ignore libelous or fighting words, would such words disappear?

Gillmor: I'm a big believer that the answer to bad speech is better speech, but I'm not a defender of libel or language specifically designed to elicit a violent response. Even there, however, we don't want to get into prior restraint.

Moro: Are you referring to oligopolistic trends in America’s news industry when you say, "We are seeing a market failure"? When one search product or a few ISPs dominate, should we be concerned that the barriers to accessing news would actually increase?

Gillmor: The main market failure in journalism was the monopoly and oligopoly era, certainly from the point of view of the media's most important customers, the advertisers. They were squeezed unmercifully by publishers and broadcasters. The monopoly/oligopoly, compounded by corporate consolidation, led to a dearth of variety for readers, too. I'm always troubled when one company dominates anything. Competition is healthy for the market ecosystem, even if it's hard on the competitors.

Moro: You have said, “The slate is blank as far as the future of the news industry is concerned.” Please elaborate.

Gillmor: We're in the early days of the creative destruction phase, as Schumpeter would have put it, in media evolution. What's coming is going to be a much more diverse ecosystem, I hope and believe, that will include many different business models. Some will dominate, as tends to happen in all economic sectors, but it's not clear what they'll be yet. Meanwhile, new kinds of techniques for media and journalism and collaboration are coming along. The opportunities seem fairly limitless in that context. It'll be a hugely messy transition, with a lot of problems along the way, but I'm convinced it'll be a positive evolution overall.

Among the problems: We don’t know what we can trust and what we can’t trust when we see or hear something online. It was a lot easier when we had limited media sources. Now we have to do more work ourselves, as I’m writing in my new book. But the effort is well worth it.

Another issue is the reality that we’re losing, at least temporarily, some of the kinds of journalism we really need -- especially the journalism that holds powerful people accountable and lets them know that someone might be paying attention when they misbehave. It’s not clear how the market will serve that need, and we need a lot of creativity.

Moro: You have said entrepreneurship is social ownership, that is ownership of the process and outcome rather than of stock or money.

Gillmor: Entrepreneurship isn’t solely about owning stock or making money -- though it may well include that and usually does. Paraphrasing my colleague CJ Cornell on this, it's also very much about owning the process and the outcome of your work. It means, in part, that you have to be committed and focused.

Moro: Do you have a favorite example of an emerging entrepreneur in the news industry?

Gillmor: Hope you’ll understand why I want to duck this one -- there are so many cool thing going on that I’d hate to only name one. But I'm watching a number of projects with great interest. Some are for-profit, others are more in the social-enterpreneurship category or outright nonprofits. If my South by Southwest talk

is accepted, though, I'm going to list somewhere between 20 and 100 (hope to go with the higher number) projects that make me glad to be in the field right now.

Moro: You have said, “I am not clear which business model is going to emerge.” So what are the options?

Gillmor: Everything is on the table for revenue, but I think that someone from NPR said that there are lots of revenue sources and we have to go after many of them in every kind of enterprise. It'll be a blend, then, from advertising, subscription, patronage, donations, services, ancillary products and more -- and people will find new ways to bring willing buyers to sellers. The business side of journalism needs more innovation right now than the doing-journalism side.

Moro: If the Web is about iteration – anything we do, we must fix on a continuous basis – can the Web ever provide a medium of record?

Gillmor: Sure it can. You archive everything you do and make sure it's available, as Wikipedia does. You can go back to see every change made in articles there. The thing we need to add (and I'm working on a blog posting about this) is a way to create a new page with a new permalink for changed versions, with attached metadata, so that when someone refers to something we know which version it was. This will be pretty complex to pull off, I suspect. I'm thinking a lot about this because of my new book, which I'm envisioning as a 1.0 version of a book that I'll rerelease as a 2.0 in a year, and possibly with a lot of in-between updates. Doing this raises the issue of citations; if we're not working from a common text how do we know what we're citing is the same stuff.

Moro: Speaking of your forthcoming book, don't you plan to self-publish it? In your 2004 book We the Media, you had invoked a history of self publishing: Paine’s Common Sense and Hamilton-Madison-Jay’s Federalist Papers were all self-published and, as it turned out, either inspired the anti-colonial revolution or shaped America’s constitution. In what circumstances do you see an acceptance of self-publishing in academic tenure? How do you measure quality, rigor or originality in a self-published work?

Gillmor: Yes. See this for background. I'll have a test of self-publishing acceptance with this book, because I'm very much hoping that educators will use it. There's a growing understanding that traditional publishers aren't serving the marketplace very well anymore, especially for authors. The quality, rigor and originally of self-published books ranges just as widely as in blogs; a lot of it is not so hot, but there's some extraordinary work being done.

Moro: Can you share a couple of examples of "extraordinary work" from self-published scholars (other than yourself) in journalism or mass communication?

Gillmor: Not offhand -- I haven't really looked around at this. But the blogging being done by academics is extraordinarily good in many cases, and I believe that counts.

Again, I hesitate to cite specifics because there are so many; I don’t want to suggest that these are the only bloggers worthy of attention. But take a look at Brad DeLong’s blog at Berkeley and Balkinization, a brilliant law group-blog, for starters.

Moro: Some 15 years ago, you had published one of the earliest blogs operated by any journalist for a news organization. How have blogs unfolded since then? And would you list, say, five ways in which they would evolve over the next five years?

Gillmor: Blogs have become an entirely mainstream activity, but they still range all over the map. For the first several years of my blog I was the only one doing it, as far as I knew, in the traditional media. Now everyone does it, and that's great; blogs are an absolutely natural extension of the print and broadcast brands. I'd be hard pressed to list five ways they'll evolve, because like almost everyone else I didn't anticipate micro-blogging (Twitter) or what people do inside Facebook and other social networks, which is a social blogging system of sorts (among other things). I'd expect people to keep stretching the boundaries, and I'd especially expect the blog platform providers to add valuable capabilities that make the most of the mobile computing we're all increasingly doing. The important thing to remember is that blogging is a tool, and blogs are websites. Beyond that you can do almost anything.

Moro: Have blogs, and other social media, become more social and less personal?

Gillmor: It depends on who's doing them. I don't have data, but I'd guess that this is the case.

Moro: You have said, “People often ask who, in the anyone-can-publish world, is a journalist? I tell them it’s the wrong question. The right one: What is journalism?” So what is journalism? Please list your top five principles of journalism.

Gillmor: The principles you've asked for are one of the key chapters in my new book. Four of them are the same ones that have applied to traditional journalism -- accuracy, thoroughness, fairness, independence -- plus one more that I consider essential for the future: transparency.

Moro: Transparency in what?

Gillmor: Transparency in telling the audience your biases and world view; explaining when it makes sense how and why you did what you did; and much more. Journalism has been a black box, and it’s way overdue that journalists open up a bit. I’m not asking people to post their tax returns online, but I do think they should tell us, for example, when they have a stake (ideological or financial) in the outcome. And the more audiences understand about the process of creating trustworthy information, the more likely they may be to give it some trust.

Moro: Thank you, Dan, for talking to me!

Gillmor: My pleasure, Nikhil.

Photograph courtesy of Joi Ito via Creative Commons

Also see:

Robert G. Picard: "News organizations will rely upon a greater variety of revenue streams..."

Jim O'Shea: "Newspapers have served the interests of investors at the expense of readers"

Leonard Witt: "I want conversation, I want collective intelligence, but I also want sound journalism"

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Call for AEJMC 2011 Panel Proposals

The Civic & Citizen Journalism Interest Group (CCJIG) invites panel proposals for the 2011 AEJMC convention to be held in St. Louis, Missouri from Aug. 10-13.

Please email your panel proposal to Co-Vice Chair Kirsten Johnson ( as a Word attachment by October 15.

Past panels have focused on blogging discourse, credibility of citizen journalism practices, citizen contributions and politics, user collaborative activities, community conversations in hyperlocal media, newsroom projects, practicing civic and citizen journalism in a multicultural environment, and teaching civic and citizen journalism.

Panel proposals for 2011 may address, but are not limited to, the following broad themes:

1. Defining who citizen journalists are, and the roles they serve in their communities. Defining what is and is not citizen journalism.

2. Emerging models and best practices in teaching of civic/citizen journalism.

3. Media convergence and using new tools to facilitate citizen journalism.

4. Local/global practices and perceptions of civic/citizen journalism.

5. Research techniques used by civic/citizen journalism scholars. In general, address topics that are relevant to current discussions in journalism, politics, technology, democracy, or philosophy.

Panels addressing issues of cultural and racial diversity are encouraged.

Your panel proposal should mention the following components in order:
Type (i.e., PF&R, Teaching, Research), a tentative title, a possible moderator, the possible panelists (limit to three so we can work on linking with other interest groups and divisions), a brief description of the panel, possible co-sponsors (divisions or interest groups), and contact information. Also provide speaker demographic and funding estimates (see sample proposal). Selected proposals are compiled into a single document, with proposals from other divisions and interest groups, in order to be considered for co-sponsorship and scheduling. Many will later be revised or expanded as part of the joint planning process.

A sample proposal is available at We look forward to your proposals!

Kirsten A. Johnson, Ph.D. Co-Vice Chair, Civic & Citizen Journalism Interest Group

Thursday, August 12, 2010

“News organizations will rely upon a greater variety of revenue streams… and their proportions will vary”

Sustainable business models have emerged as a Holy Grail of America’s news industry. Frustratingly elusive, such models have caused much mind-wringing by a variety of media scholars, one of whom is Robert G. Picard.

A leading light of the media business, Picard holds the Hamrin Professorship in media economics at the Jönköping International Business School, Sweden, and is a fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at University of Oxford. In this instant-messenger conversation with Nikhil Moro of UNT’s Mayborn School of Journalism, Picard expands on views he articulated a few days earlier at the AEJMC conference in Denver.

Professor Picard, you have said, “The real problem we have today is too much news.” What do you mean by that?

We have too much news in the sense that we are bombarded with news from print, broadcast, Internet, mobile, and outdoor sources. It has made certain types of news ubiquitous and commoditized it. Flow of events news is particularly widely available. Consequently one cannot create much value with it.

When news turns into a commodity, does its quality tend to suffer?

It can. However, one can have quality information and news that is commoditized, which primarily strips it of economic value, but it may still have some social value.

You have said that the news industrys problem is not revenue as much as a poor quality of its product. Elaborate?

The product problem today is that most news outlets are filling themselves up with inexpensive flow of events news from news agencies and features from feature agencies and syndicates that serve all types of media. The end result is that there is very little unique provided by different news organizations. Because some provide it free or nearly free, it makes it difficult to get the public to pay for news. News organizations have to pay attention to their products and ensure that they are higher quality and unique compared to competitors that did not previously exist.

Can you name five attributes of great journalism that also help the business side of news operations?

Uniqueness, credibility, specialization, knowledgeable analysis, and application to readers and listeners' lives.

How would you define credibility in news?

Credibility results from audience faith that the news source is primarily concerned with the public's interest, that it is making efforts to be fair and accurate, and that it is an honest broker of information. It is not just something news organizations do, but something the public BELIEVES they do.

Can a business model define the products social value?

Social value comes from news and information that helps us understand the world about us, gives us knowledge needed to participate in society, and helps us interact effectively with those around out. That kind of material is relative expensive to produce and only small percentage of news outlets engage in that kind of news production. A business model—the parts that define what the product is and how it will be produced—can incorporate activities most likely to produce social value.

The news industrys movement from mass medium to “niche medium”may be alienating mass advertisers. But can any good come of it?

Perhaps. It will begin to move news organizations away from being primarily providers of non-news content (75% or more of content in newspapers, for example, isn't news) toward a focus on news and providing in ways other distributors do not, and in better ways than other providers.

Is the health of journalism related to the stability of news organizations?

No. News organizations are in poor health today, but journalism is in good health. I say that because not just journalists but public officials and the public are discussing the importance of journalism and journalism practice and seeking new ways to ensure society has the kind of journalism necessary for public life and democracy to take place. The focus on the functions of journalism and how to achieve them in the future indicates an esteem for and support of journalism that has not been evident for many years.

You have said that the “mass media model won’t go away completely, but it will not be the primary model of newspapers in the future.”

The mass media business model is dependent upon creating an audience of such size that advertisers will be willing to pay a disproportionate part of the costs of operations so audiences can access content at a low price or free (as in television). Some advertisers will still be interested in reaching the smaller audiences that news produces, but additional revenue will be needed from other sources. In the future, the business model will include revenue generation from more sources.

What might be the other sources?

Raising the price to audiences is one. Engaging in commercial activities that can subsidize news operations is another option. Obtaining grants and donations may work for some providers.

Does Rupert Murdochs payment model have a chance when competitors such as BBC Online, which is funded by a license fee, are offering similar content for free?

That depends on how one defines success. Although BBC Online provides news and features, there is some unique content in papers such as The Times of London and there are people in Britain and elsewhere who will wish to access it for a fee. Those numbers will be far lower than those who want it free, however. There is no reader income when it is free and at least some when it is paid. From that standpoint it will be a success. However, a second question is whether advertising revenue lost from the reducing readers with the pay wall will decline to the point it outweighs the new income.

So is free a model?

It is a model, but only if someone other than readers, viewers, or listeners is willing to pay the price. Although many think of it as free, the BBC and its online operations are not and are paid for by the licence fees of nearly every British household. In general, free is not a good price from the producer’s standpoint, but consumers may like.

Professor Dan Gillmor said last week, “I am not clear which business model is going to emerge.” What is your assessment? Regardless, would you like to share a list of five emerging business models that are most likely to prevail?

It would be nice to say there is a single model that will emerge but there will be many, depending upon the unique characteristics and situations of each news organizations. I don't think it is possible to say there will be clearly separate models. What I foresee is that all news organizations will rely upon a greater variety of revenue streams than in the past and that the proportions from each will vary. Even not-for-profit media such as the BBC, NPR, and The Guardian now have multiple income streams, including commercial income.

If American newspapers have been losing 1-2% of their audience every year for 40 years, what is different now?

The current situation did not happen suddenly and the Internet is not to blame, but is compounding the long-term challenge. What has happened it that circulation has now reached a critical tipping point. Combined with new developments in digital media, both the public and advertisers are changing their consumption patterns and reconsidering all their media use.

Please name a couple of your favorite news outlets, perhaps newspapers that you read every day.

I regularly read The Boston Globe, The New York Times, and The Guardian in hard copy when they are available and otherwise online. CBS News and BBC are my main broadcast sources.

Any favorite Swedish newspaper?

When I am in Sweden I favor Dagens Nyheter.

Do you see a consolidation in the news industry in America? If so, at what levels?

Consolidation is already occurring at the local level through joint ownership and joint ventures between local newspapers, television stations, and cable channels. At the national and global level we are seeing major media operating several outlets and news services and we are seeing use of bureaus and reporters from other news organizations in gathering international news. When organizations encounter financial problems, consolidation is a normal business response.

Are you elated or bothered by consolidation at the national/global levels?

Both. It is a two-edged sword that has to be viewed with caution. From one view it is improving news provisions in some outlets, reducing costs, and making news more readily available. From another view, however, it reduces the number of news and information sources and creates fewer independent sources. That said, we are better off today in terms of the number of news providers at the national and international levels than in the past and the number is growing. Even at the local level we are now seeing a variety of new startups If the entrants balance the consolidation we will not have a problem; if they don’t, we will need to be worried about the effects.

Would you share some wisdom? -- your top five tips for entrepreneurs that are about to start a media startup such as a hyper-local or community news portal.

1) Do something different from newspapers and television stations in your cities.

2) Focus on what your readers need and are not getting elsewhere.

3) Make the public part of your effort; draw on their knowledge and expertise; allow them to participate in many different ways.

4) Pay attention to the management of the enterprise and ensure you carry out tasks that will make it sustainable.

5) Do not assume that merely because you are doing something good, it will be perceived as valuable and useful by the public.

Thanks for the stimulating interview!

You are welcome. I have enjoyed it.