‘Journalism is extremely valuable for our societies’ is what we hear very often. How valuable? And why are the providers of journalism not feeling the value? Why are they going down in numbers? Dying at a fast rate?
Well, because technically, journalism has no economical value. Looking at publishers’s balance sheets journalism is an inevitable expense.
Publishers are producing a unique commodity that is not sold and not traded – no matter how ‘valuable’ readers consider it. Journalism is just filling the gaps between advertising.
Yes, I can hear you screaming from here. But it is true. I am a publisher myself. We are sitting on a phenomenal treasure that is growing everyday and we are watching others exploit it.
We need to change this – and we can. Here is how. But first let me explain a bit more.
Newspapers and magazines are still mainly monetizing their content within their reach, which is measured mainly by their print distribution. Print distribution is shrinking as we all know. The valuation of online advertising is still based on quantity, not on quality of contacts. Another tragic paradox for the valuation of journalism is that, technically content has no value in the publishing industry. Any controller in a publishing house knows: Content is not an income for the publisher, content production only creates expenses that are hopefully compensated with advertising revenues.
The other paradox is that search engines and social media platforms are making money based on content they mainly do not produce. If they have no content their platform is empty and does not generate money. Advertising revenues of platforms are still rising exponentially and the quality content industry – newspaper and magazine publishers have been giving away their content for free because they fear losing the connection to the mass market. While their audience numbers are shrinking they considered jumping on the mass wagon of Google, Facebook, Twitter etc. was the only solution not to be marginalized.
Quality content providers like newspapers and magazines are not making money with content because they are actually not selling it. They have not created a market for content, they have no ‘price’ for content and their content cannot be found and traded easily.
All this has to change to save quality journalism. What needs to be done?
- Quality content has to have a value. How much is a good story worth? It is easier than you think: Why do pork bellies, Gold, Shares, Currencies, AirBnB rentals, Uber drives have a value? Because there is a system that defines the market value. And having a price tag is the first step to earning money, isn’t it? Until now there is no system for content valuation based on market factors – like relevance for example.
- Quality content needs to be marketable. Nearly every publisher in the world has the potential to export its products. Some stories might be strictly for a local audience – but even a local story about an aspiring businessman, athlete, scientist might be interesting for a global audience one day. If you have a great story about a young businessman in your home town who later becomes the richest man in the world your content your local is a global treasure that everybody wants. The same holds for a local scientist, an athlete, a special incident or event.
- In order to be marketable content has to be generally available and searchable:
But where can you find it? Where is the platform where I can search for specific content from newspapers all over the world, in my language, with search filters. Recent and historic content?
- In order to be marketable content has to be valued:
Content needs a global price tag. It seems so obvious and yet:
There are only individual price schemes of newspaper and magazine syndication departments.
Prices are usually too high, or too low (when content could be valued much higher because of demand).
The problem: Researching text, researching the price and the contracting process is far too complicated for the fast-moving publishing business.
- In order to be marketable content has to be available in multiple languages.
There are 74,000 newspaper and magazine publications in the world (WAN-IFRA) – all potential buyers and sellers of quality content.
More than 900 million new articles are available every year.
Thankfully, technology like DeepL and other services provide the possibility of fast and inexpensive translation.
Machine translation is not sufficient for quality content, but it creates the perfect raw material for distribution and finalization.
Translation alone will not do the trick: The content also needs to be slightly adapted to be marketable by transferring currencies, weight, distance and time units.
Relative references to time and location need to be transferred into specific information (words like ‘yesterday’ or ‘near the main station’).
- In order to be marketable content sales need simple rules.
The world of copyright laws is extremely complex. One has to wonder why exploiting content disregarding most of existing copyright laws made companies like Youtube extremely rich. Talking to publishers about global content trade can become a boring philosophical discourse about the complexity of laws. The consequence: While others are stealing their content publishers are making it difficult for themselves as they use the laws that were designed for authors and rights owners against them. The solution: Start trading content with a simple set of rules that acknowledges the basic principles of copyright laws in the countries, where you buy or sell. Make sure that the authors and rights owners get a share of your revenue. Make the process transparent so that it can be tracked and logged in case of litigation. Not selling content will just result in death while others are already making money with your products.
- In order to be marketable content has to be generally available and searchable:
The tasks above do not seem very difficult. A combination of databases, algorithms and transaction modules have to be put together to make this work. A Munich-based startup is working on it.
But before we start unleashing the value of content publishers have to change perspective. Journalists and publishers still have a hard time to consider their products a commodity.
Once they understand that their content is actually a very ‘hot’ commodity which generates billions of revenue for others they will be able to enter a new era of making money with content.
Publishers would not be limited to their reach and subscriber numbers anymore. Journalists and publishers are owners of an exclusive and specific resource. The world has to buy it from them. Like software developers they have the Intellectual Property that others want and need. Understandably not every piece of content is equally valuable every day. Not every piece of content will be sold – and sold again.
Demand and supply will control sales and the pricing like with any other commodity. Companies who are currently exploiting content mainly for free will have to adapt their business model from stealing (or ‘obtaining it’) to buying and exploiting content. Until now it was too easy for them. Publishers mostly gave away their monetizing potential away for free.
This all sounds quite basic! But nobody has done it so far. The founders of Contenno – including me have made marketability of content their goal. It is the philosophy that drives the creation of the first journalism trading platform. Contenno will be the ‘pork belly’ trading place for journalism – with all the special care that journalism needs to be a successful commodity. Contenno algorithms currrently learn pricing, our engines and plugins learn finding and searching, analyzing and adapting content. And they learn how to make content trading a fast and easy transaction for everyone.
A new era will start when journalism has a price tag. Creative people like me used to be proud to do something ‘special’, a unique product unlike any other commodity. We think different. We think that making money with content when start when journalism will start being just like any other commodity when it comes to making money with it. We like to share the journey and involve the industry in the process.
Axel Breuer is one of the founders at Contenno, the first global trading platform for journalistic content. He is also a small specialty magazine publisher for agriculture.
Contenno is the first intelligent AI-driven, worldwide trading platform for professional editorial content. Publishers and media companies can sell and buy content at Contenno. To any country, in any language. With smart translation options. Contenno makes content available to a global buyer’s market. Contenno helps you generate previously unachievable revenues with existing and new content without incurring new costs in production.Contenno uses artificial intelligence to optimize the search process. Contenno uses a content pricing algorithm that constantly adapts to current content demand. Contenno uses algorithms that analyze and optimize content for maximum marketability. Content can be marketed worldwide – at the push of a button. Content can be sold again and again. The price of content depends on demand: Smart algorithms define the optimal price range for content every second.