12/07/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Observations from the New Business Models for News Summit

Hey, this conference at CUNY two weeks ago is a really big deal, people getting serious about new ways of doing news, and paying for it.

Jeff Jarvis talks about what's next

So I proposed a problem to solve: What if a city, say Philadelphia, loses its paper tomorrow. What would you build in its place to serve the community? The group went to town. Rather than trying to hack at the old, they build something new.

They calculated the likely revenue Philadelphia could support online and then figured out what they could afford in staffing. Instead of the 200-300-person newsroom that has existed in print, they decided they could afford 35 and they broke that down to include a new job description: "community managers who do outreach, mediation, social media evangelism." They settled on three of those plus 20 content creators, two programmers, three designers, five producers

The conference attracted people doing really work in new forms of journalism, summarized by Jeff:

A star among them was our own David Cohn, co-organizer of the conference, as he presented Spot.US, his Knight-Challenge-funded startup to create an infrastructure for readers to support reporters doing stories. David's elevator pitch was a model for all my entrepreneurial journalism students. His enthusiasm, inventiveness, and ability to see opportunities where others see gloom was a model to the executives in the room. What I loved best was watching executives and investors from very big companies stuffing David's pocket with their business cards. Who says the news business is dying? If you know where to look, it's being reborn.


I was delighted that the amazing group we were lucky to bring together had moved past the old rivalries: business vs. edit, new media vs. old. I was also quite relieved to hear a universal sense of urgency about the need to find new means to sustain journalism. There isn't a minute to waste.

As a result, we saw editorial and business people entering into frank conversations we don't often hear, willing to reset assumptions and build new models. Included in that was a general acceptance that the cost structure of the news business is way too high and has to be cut. This slide from the Telegraph's Edward Roussel resonated strongly in the room.