The recent Storyology conference held by the Walkley Foundation in Sydney last week contained unexpected gems of wisdom.
Unexpected because the media industry is in much worse shape than I’d thought. Nobody is making money online, at least not the average midldle class professional anyway. With the exception of companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon and a few technology, mommy and food bloggers, the internet is a money desert. Sure, you might get offered fifty dollars for an article but it’s more likely you’ll be drip fed advertising copy or the occasional and hopefully syndicated, freelance piece.
Whilst most of us are aware that newspaper revenue has been in sharp decline there was an expectation that somehow online content would provide an income. This, as it turns out, is a myth.
Alie Cromie, former investigative journalist and now financial service provider swept into the conference like a tsunami with a sledgehammer . She questioned the ‘journoprenuers’ who claimed success for their online projects about their actual earnings.
“How much money do you make,” she asked.
None of the journoprenuers would answer. She asked them again but they squirmed in their chairs. Finally they conceded that they earned nothing and were unsure if their sites would even survive another year.
Ali left her journalism career over 10 years ago. I spent an hour with her in a cafe talking about the future of journalism. She believes the only media site that had a profitable business model was Al Jazeera. Their model was based on the immediacy of reporting stories with eyewitnesses rather than wait to interview specialists to provide a ’rounded’ story. She cut through the hype surrounding monetizing content and showed how even ‘successful’ journoprenuers’ were merely inflated egos.
Then there was the appearance of Margot Kingston. Margot was a well known Australian journalist who wrote opinion pieces and released several books. She disappeared from Fairfax quite a few years ago. Burnt out and disillusioned she retrained as a nurse. That would be like Bill Gates showing sitting in the audience of a technology conference after retraining to work in Hospitality.
The telecommunication companies who supply broadband connections, modems and related products are reaping fortunes from us fools who believe their websites full of entertaining and diverse content will one day make money.
The desert might contain a river beneath its sands but a thirsty man will never find it.
This is the truth of journalism.