#ijf18talk by Jay Rosen. Moderated by Mathew Ingram.
We are still in the early days of the wake-up call for news publishers as they discover that the digital ad business will never be a reliable means of support. Meanwhile, all of journalism is grappling with problems of trust amid extreme polarization and the dominance of a tech industry that seems indifferent to the fate of a free press.
Subscription is appealing to more and more publishers as an escape route from this troubled landscape. It would provide a revenue stream to replace ads and a more controlled publishing climate to combat trolls. If you have subscribers (and their credit card numbers) you don't have to care as much about Facebook's shifting algorithms.
But the cost is high. Digital paywalls prevent journalism from seeking its natural public, and limit the spread of the best work. It's hard to be a public service when you only speak to the portion of the audience that knows the product and is willing to pay for regular access.
This is the problem that the Membership Puzzle Project is trying to solve. (I am the project's director.) We focus on membership models in news because they do not require a digital paywall. Members regularly tell us they want the work they're supporting to spread as widely as possible. On the other hand, membership does require a tighter bond with supporters, greater transparency, more interaction, and a conscious decision to optimize a news organization for trust. What that phrase "optimize for trust" means in practice: this talk will be about that.