Paul Bradshaw, leading online journalist and visiting professor at City University, has written a very interesting article for InPublishing on whether it is possible to make money out of data journalism.
His basic premise, that data journalism is driving traffic and offers news organisations a way to tap new resources (such as developers) to produce popular and valuable information is sound.
However when he moves on to how to actually take commercial advantage of data journalism, his examples show how the basic problem of making consumer journalism pay will not be solved by the public’s growing enthusiasm for data journalism.
Bradshaw’s business to business examples present promising ways to use data journalism both to attract readers to premium content incorporating useful data, and as a product in itself by selling data directly to business users. Though they are taking slightly different approaches, Haymarket and Future are both using data to boost revenues by following one of the golden rules of B2B. Businesses will spend money if they think it will help them make more money.
But in the consumer sphere the problem still remains that no matter how interesting a set of data is, the amount someone is prepared to pay is limited. As a result, Bradshaw has to rely on examples of news organisations using data to personalise their output. But this isn’t data journalism, it’s targeting. This isn’t information digested and served up for readers, it’s info on the readers themselves.
Bradshaw’s article is enlightening in terms of how data journalism can drive revenues in certain circumstances. But it shows that this revolution in the type of journalism produced will not change the fact that businesses will pay for content whereas consumers are increasingly reluctant to do so. Data journalism may be the hot new thing, but it’s certainly no saviour of the mainstream press.