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Doing storytelling the right way

While everyone is stretching the logic to do business where business is no longer viable, there is plenty of room for providing readers with real value.

The most future-proof Business School teachers once suggested to his students that they should start a business by looking at local activity reviews on Yelp, then take the three major problems reported by clients, and found their business on doing exactly the opposite in all three instances.

Words aren’t enough to describe the troubles of the publishing industry; at least I can find no better words than those posted by Jeff Jarvis, yesterday, on the subject of media and news.

That said, I worry about journalists who spend one day writing to serve the public and the next writing to serve sponsors. News organizations should never do that with staff, but I’m sorry to say that today, a few do. Freelance journalists are also turning to making sponsored content to pay the bills.

Jeff Jarvis

A fierce battle is being fought: there is the struggle to sustain information and journalism on one side; on the other, stand legions of publishers trying to understand how to prevent their circulation and advertisement revenue from sinking even lower. Both sides are faced with the same problem and, frankly, neither is to blame.

For once in my life, I want to stop thinking of the media as a business

I believe in the freedom of information, and view journalistic ethics as a means of benefitting the readers. The purpose of the freedom, and the ethics, is to provide added value through in-depth analysis and research, by quoting sources and putting facts and data together to attain a broader perspective.

You can’t simply stop providing a service and still expect to be paid. Most publishing outlets today are struggling to make a living out of a business model which is no longer existent. Most of them earned money once, on the assumption that no-one could do better than them at news. As it turned out, they were wrong.

Reporting is no longer an organized business: it is a two-way conversation between storytellers and readers, with both sides being enriched by narrating and listening. There is already a community of storytellers out there: it was formed years ago, as they jumped on the blogging bandwagon. As usually happens, they disrupted the established model.

It takes vision and understanding to go through the battle unharmed. Not having to protect a pre-existing condition also helps.

I believe that research, understanding, investigation and making a note of things for the benefit of others should be done properly. Doing it right means doing it solely for the audience, rather than trying to please an advertiser or sponsor, or being attached to a political party or a group of interest.

Telling stories is becoming a business again

If you aren’t totally sold on the idea that content should be available for free to anyone in the digital world, it might occur to you that whoever is behind the narrative is getting paid – somehow. However complicated the business model, in the end the one who turns out to be paying is the reader.

I believe that simpler is better, and crystal clear is best

Authors should be paid by readers, with real money flowing towards the storytellers that prove to be trustworthy, that provide a service and engage in a relationship with the readers with a view to accomplishing the great task of providing understanding and an in-depth narrative of facts. Nowadays, writers are getting more and more used to releasing their work for free, just to get published and thus build an audience – in the hope of capitalizing on their work in the foreseeable future.

Publishers looking to make the process of content production ever cheaper are still betting on this to improve their balance sheets. This creates the endless loop of lowering content quality and working hard for nothing.

Every consumer of a journalistic investigation or an in-depth report has an economic counterpart who puts money into the creation of that content. The capital should not be extracted from the texts themselves and diverted towards a consumable product. Instead, textual content should be emphasized and promoted in an attractive manner, and thus create that sense of allegiance which makes people gather around premium services and members-only ventures.

Need we go back to this intrinsic value and make it explicit?

Looking after the economics should be considered a major path to the publishing of journalistic stories, within a new paradigm of: creation – distribution – monetization.

Granules of content and atoms of information, targeted vertically at small- to medium-sized, data-consuming audiences, are capable of creating multiple long chains of paid content. Authors should benefit from a clear and systematic approach to storytelling, by aiming to be consistent and building up trust.

I believe that there is strong demand for a service capable of making the publishing industry transparent; a service that creates a community of writers and readers, and settles the monetary exchange between them with the help of a fair economic model.
While others are trying to dilute their values with marketing strategies, more and more space is being created for doing the opposite.