What kind of journalism pays off the most

In November there was a lot about funding (innovations in) journalism. State press funding in particular has received a lot of criticism. Then the question: What journalism does the (young) audience pay for? And the discussion about how to report on assassins boiled up again.

New York Times with 7 million digital subscribers

The New York Times plans to have 10 million subscribers by 2025. Almost 7 million are already today, as the NYT announced in November. And more than 6 million have a digital subscription, the print sales branch has “only” 800,000 subscribers. The strategy of only offering one article for free and then calling for a (trial) subscription, which costs 17 dollars per month, seems to be working. Further growth should also come from abroad. Even now, 18 percent of sales come from abroad, as Deutschlandfunk writes in an analysis of the NYT business figures.

Overview of financing models for media

German publishers can only dream of such numbers. Sure, the comparison is lagging, the USA is much bigger than Germany, the New York Times is a global brand and many more people in the world understand English than German. In Germany, with Spiegel, Zeit, Süddeutscher Zeitung, FAZ and perhaps the Handesblatt, there are only a handful of titles that could also be of interest to foreign readers, says Kai-Hinrich Renner in the Berliner Zeitung. In his article, which is well worth reading, he discusses all common models of financing media offers: crowdfunding, individual sale of articles, foundation funds and finally state funding.

Much criticism of the mode of state press funding

Something groundbreaking happened in November: For the first time in German history, there are state subsidies for the press: the Federal Ministry of Economics is making 220 million euros available for “innovation promotion”. The publishers are supposed to drive the digital transformation of their companies.

But there is a lot of criticism of the deal: The subsidies are to be paid according to the number of copies, which is preferred by larger media companies. Whoever has is given. Because online shops and classifieds portals, through which real estate and cars are sold, are also funded, the question arises whether Minister of Economic Affairs Altmaier really wants to help journalism.

Günter Herkel also has little interest in the state aid package in Verdi magazine Menschenmachen Medien. He sees it as a “state-supported press concentration”. So far, innovation in German journalism has mainly originated elsewhere, in special labs from SWR, ZDF and MDR, at the Babelsberg Media Innovation Center or at the MediaLab Bavaria.

Innovation sponsored by Google

Interestingly, Google is one of the largest financial sponsors of innovations in German journalism, although the US Internet company has been arguing with the German publishing landscape over ancillary copyright law for years (we reported). In an interview with netzpolitik.org, which is well worth reading, media researcher Christopher Buschow also considers the fact that Google is needed to promote innovation to be a “significant and tragic finding”.

Incidentally, Buschow recently wrote a report with Christian-Mathias Wellbrock on the innovation landscape of journalism in Germany, in which he names, among other things, the barriers to innovation and gives recommendations for an innovation policy in German journalism.

Digital Publishers Working Group criticizes the distortion of competition

Protest evokes the planned press funding from digital publishers, who, as things stand, would not receive any subsidies from the pot. 31 of them have joined together in the working group for digital publishers and issued a declaration in which they oppose this “massive distortion of competition” and demand equal treatment of “all distribution channels - whether text, sound or image”.

Herb reporters gain new members

The signatories also include the Krautreporter, who are a good example of the approach to finance a digital journalistic offering exclusively through membership fees. This is not an easy task, especially in times of corona. After several years of continuous growth, the membership of Krautreporter has been declining since the end of 2019. The editors then started an advertising campaign in which they disclosed their business model and also admitted their own mistakes. The appeal had the desired effect, Krautreporter was able to gain new members and reach the targeted 15,000 mark.

This is worth all honors, but it must also be said that the most stubborn subscription calls (not to say begging emails) are required to increase the number of members or to keep them constant. The herb reporters are still making losses, as they write in their blog post. As sympathetic as I find Krautreporter: It is still a niche offer.

Does the audience want inspiring journalism?

The Krautreporter and, even more so, Perspective Daily are among the offers that make classifying and constructive journalism. Even if he does not mention them by name, SZ innovation expert Dirk von Gehlen should have thought of them in his blog post “Inspiring Journalism”. By this he understands a journalism that delivers “thought value” and gives its readers the feeling that “afterwards they will have more opportunities to see more things (and maybe also solutions).” With a journalism that can do that, too Establish long-term digital payment models, says von Gehlen.

Both Krautreporter and Perspective Daily are among the editors who place great value on working with their members. For example, by asking questions about desired topics or tapping into the knowledge of your community during research.

Journalism researcher Alexandra Borchardt also stated in the journalistthat young people “want more utility for their life, better explanations and also a little fun”. Your contribution "The End of Journalistic Gut Feeling" is a plea for journalists to listen more and more precisely to what the audience wants and what it needs. Her conclusion: “Journalism is sometimes art, but much more often a service. His basic attitude is courage. Above all, it should also be humility. "

Vice-editor-in-chief Felix Dachsel takes the same line in his blog post about what German journalism can learn from young media: "Journalists have to write in order to reach their audiences, otherwise you can let it stay."

Google shows info boxes from the Ministry of Health

Google was in the media headlines again in November, but less because of its innovation funding and more because of a deal with the Federal Ministry of Health. Anyone looking for diseases such as "coronavirus, influenza, flu or allergy" will find information boxes on Google with information from and links to the Ministry of Health. There are a total of 160 such “Knowledge Panels”. The magazine publishers do not like this at all, they see in the offer a “displacement of the private press by a state media offer on a digital mega-platform” and thus a “unique and novel attack on the freedom of the press”. Press publishers are also complaining. "Only those who previously took Google's money in silence are particularly outraged," writes the taz, referring to the Google money from the Digital News Initiative.

Ethical misconduct in reports on terrorist attack in Vienna

On November 2, there was a terrorist attack in Vienna in which a presumably Islamist-minded man shot four passers-by before he was killed by the police. Breaking news situations are always a challenge for the media. Because of this, some tabloid media failed, especially Oe24 and the Kronen Zeitung in Austria, which published video and image material showing a victim being shot. The Austrian press council received more than 1,500 complaints, more than ever before, as reported by Der Standard.

In Germany, the picture spread false rumors, for example that there was a hostage-taking in a fast food restaurant. The picture blog has collected several picture errors.

Florian Klenk, editor-in-chief of the weekly magazine “Falter”, was also in the immediate vicinity of the crime scenes in downtown Vienna. He tweeted a lot about the events, warned, and also spread false alarms from the police and was one of the first journalists to mention the name of the murdered bomber. He had to take a lot of criticism for that. In an interview with Übermedien, which is well worth reading, Falter takes a position on the criticism. I find the passages particularly interesting about whether and, if so, to what extent journalists should report on such assassins and the victims.