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Why journalism has to change

 6 min read / 

The internet has opened up many new opportunities for everyone. From sharing memories and experiences with friends and family living around the globe to being able to access a massive library of information and learning at a touch of a screen, the internet has created new expectations of what is possible. Work, of course, has been changed as well. No longer are people tied to a physical location, with many jobs being completed from home instead of an office. Different types of jobs, beyond tech and IT, have also been created by the internet.

Online platforms, where individuals can offer goods or services for sale to customers have emerged in recent years. The most well-known is Uber, a ride-sharing app where people can offer transportation services to one another, but many others exist. Etsy and eBay are online marketplaces which let people buy and sell goods they make or find. Deliveroo and Uber Eats are food delivery services, and TaskRabbit lets people sell their skills as handymen and home services professionals. All of these are part of the emergence of the platform economy, where economic activity is facilitated by online ‘matchmaking’ services, putting buyers and sellers in contact with each other.

Source: Kleiner Perkins Internet Trends 2018

The amount of people working in on-demand jobs through online platforms is growing every year. The platform economy is here, and it will only get larger in the future.

One common aspect of all these services is that they take advantage of people’s spare capacity for physical labour and their personal capital. Uber helps people, driving their own cars, to make money by making it easy to become a taxi. The same is true for Airbnb, where a person’s spare room or second house is used to host guests and make money.

There are very few examples of platform services where an individual’s insight, knowledge and intelligence are used to create wealth. Pursuing news stories, uncovering facts and providing analysis and insight into the what is going on in the world is a role that should be rewarded by the audience which consumes that content. I have talked more about why journalism needs to step away from being funded by advertisers and third parties in a previous post here. Part of the solution is a subscription charge for the audience to access quality journalism, but another aspect of it is paying journalists based on how much of an impact and how engaging their story was. This rewards journalists directly while still allowing a user to consume all the content they want to, at one low monthly price.

Journalism, and other intellectual work has not yet been platformised in the same way that many other industries have been. However, it makes a lot more sense for journalism to be platformised over the likes of food delivery or home services. Part of the reason why it is that the work is infinitely reproducible. An article written about the future of cryptocurrencies can be served to millions of people without diminishing the value it has for an individual. The same cannot be said for other platformised work. You can only deliver pizza to one address at a time, only put up one set of bookshelves. This means that quality journalism can be cheap to consume, but still rewards the journalist fairly.

Another benefit that intellectual work has over more physical roles is that output can still generate value long after the work has been finished. Some evergreen content, the appeal of which is not tied to a certain time period, can generate money for journalists weeks or months after it was written. Comparing it again to more traditional platformised jobs, where dropping off a passenger at the airport yesterday does not earn a driver any more money today, it is clear that a platformised approach to intellectual work in general, and journalism in particular, makes sense.

There are some services which do this already, though we tend not to include them in the platform economy. Spotify rewards artists for the amount of listens their songs get, though their work is licensed through the traditional set up of studios and labels. Of course, journalism does not take the studio time or session musicians to be produced, and the rationale for a big organisation to support a raw talent and take a cut of their earnings is weaker than in the music business.

By doing away with needing to pay those third parties, Mogul News can offer more of the financial reward directly to the journalist themselves. By acting purely as a platform where a journalist’s work can be found, accessed and rewarded by a global audience Mogul News will also not face many of the criticism being levelled at some platforms today. These services have come under fire because they seek to redefine the relationship between employer and employee, while not providing a noticeable difference in old and new roles. People are treated as freelancers in terms of reward and payment but expected to operate as a full-time employee. Mogul News will give journalists the freedom to work from anywhere, at any time, and still be rewarded for the impact they have.

The platform economy has already changed the way we live our lives, and its effects are only going to get more noticeable. Opening up intellectual work, journalism and analysis, to a platformised approach will have a positive impact not only on consumers, who can get high quality content for less than what they pay now, but also for writers and journalists, who can expect to get paid more for their articles since many of the legacy costs of old media institutions are done away with.

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