The Pitch: Roundup

by Jason Preston on March 19, 2009

As usual, I was amazed at the quality of the crowd that showed up for The Pitch last night – we had all sorts of great people with great ideas. Thanks to both Windows Media Center for buying drinks and to Lucid for hosting.

Kathy Gill has uploaded her livescribe recording of the event here. Thanks, Kathy!

Before I get into anything else, let me apologize that the live stream stopped working…I don’t know when it stopped, but I was hoping it would just run itself, and sadly it didn’t. Maybe next time I’ll be able to find someone to keep an eye on it while I’m running around.

I also want to say, right up front, that the twitter back-channel was AWESOME. I just finished reading through it…

The conversation this time centered around business models for news. More specifically: what is the best avenue for news organizations to pursue over the next five years?

I think I could have done a better job of setting up the debate, because we didn’t deviate much from a conversation about ad models throughout the evening. That said, there were some ideas I hadn’t heard before, and I’m sure that although I know at least one person went home disappointed (sorry! check here…maybe interesting?), many people got a chance to share their opinions, which to me is really the point.

The conversation at The Pitch is largely defined by what conversation we seem to want to have.

There were six business models that were floated at some point or another during the evening, some of them very familiar and others not so much. Here’s the list, as I have it:

  1. Ad Supported
  2. Endowment
  3. Freemium
  4. Bundling (the porn model)
  5. Subscription (user pays)
  6. “Multiple” (kind of cheap, but OK)

At the end of the night, the consensus seemed to be that people like the idea of news taking a “multiple models” approach. Let’s take that beyond the obvious:

A multiple-model approach to news means more than simply dabbling in several revenues streams. The important assumption is this: there have to be multiple sources of significant income to support a news staff doing the kind of journalism that we expect them to do.

If you ask me, likely candidates for combined income streams are: retail (merchandising! w00t!), advertising, and voluntary subscriptions.

There are two appealing things about this collection of ideas: first, that it doesn’t rely on a single source of income, and second, it doesn’t require closing off access to produce artificial scarcity.

What do you think?


1 Russ Walker 03.19.09 at 5:02 pm

Jason, thanks much for the link. Indeed, I had read your very thoughtful essay on newspapers when it first ran and, yes, found it quite good. The conversation last night at The Pitch was indeed engaging and, at times, provocative. But as someone new’ish to Seattle, I was disappointed that the event wasn’t structured more around building alliances and ties — i.e. linking up all that energy in the room to some sort of common purpose.

I wasn’t able to mingle afterwards, so maybe that’s what happened then. Suffice it to say that the general tone of the discussion — journalism is mired in a terrible economic mess — to be depressing, thus that’s why I tweeted that.

Looking forward to the next Pitch … that is, if I’m invited. 😉

2 Jason Preston 03.19.09 at 5:45 pm

Russ – of course you’re invited! Although I have to admit that my goal with the Pitch has never been to force any sort of coming together. I’m more interested in creating an atmosphere where people can share ideas.

In my experience, if people aren’t motivated to do something themselves, there’s very little you can do to change that.

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