Are we ready for 'artisanal journalism'?

(Re)Structuring Journalism | The Economist

Reg Chua says it's time to taxonomise this business. For instance, we could have "Artisanal journalism":

The kind we love to celebrate – and bemoan the heralded death of – is the award-winning, deeply-investigated, wonderfully-written accountability journalism. The kind that wins Pulitzers and topples governments. It’s hard work, often involving talented professionals doing months (or years) of single-minded, painstaking digging.

But like artisanal cheese, he says, such high-enterprise effort doesn't necessarily scale. "Perhaps it’s heretical to say it, but we also need industrially-produced process journalism. Put another way, we need not just Kindle Singles, but Kraft Singles as well. (I can’t believe I said that.)," he writes.

Want to know what happened on your street? What happened at the school board meeting? Which streets are closed for today’s parade? Those aren’t needs that get fed by every-so-often great works of journalism, but by day-in, day-out reporting and presentation of information and, hopefully, context.

Brute-force information gathering isn't something news orgs should necessarily outsource, though, Chua says.

I’d also argue that doing some of the day-to-day reporting – covering every school board meeting, say – helps us build towards doing those bigger-picture, higher-end accountability stories. And I believe there are good business reasons for doing that kind of daily reporting as the building blocks of a more sustainable business model.

Writing in The Economist, some unnamed writer(s) say print magazines are looking for multiple ways to monetize their intensely crafted journalism, which may not be artisanal but is often high-end mass market, like wild-rosemary almonds, maybe. “[Y]ou need five or six revenue streams to make the business really successful,” Hearst honcho David Carey tells the publication. Print ads, tablet ads, product licensing, holiday packages -- wait, holiday packages?

Travel magazines’ websites can track if their readers end up buying the holiday packages they write about, and take a cut. “I count that as advertising,” says [Hubert Burda Media chairman Paul-Bernhard] Kallen. “What many people call advertising…is definitely declining, but advertising in the broader sense isn’t.”

I can think of one natural destination for a travel package.

Photo by Jeffrey Rotter

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  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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