March 21st Manifesto

Newspapers are in crisis. The old revenue model is no longer viable. If media companies want to produce journalism, they’ll need to find new ways to fund it — even if those ways are not explicitly tied to editorial content.

On March 21, the undersigned will gather in Washington, DC to start creating the new revenue models everyone agrees are needed, but no one has yet delivered. We call this effort RevenueTwoPointZero.

But unlike recent confabs of executives, editors and academics, we are hands-on professionals charged with delivering media solutions every day. And because we’re hands-on, we know how build to prototypes to demonstrate our ideas to the newspaper industry. We aim to do that by the end of the day on March 21st.

We reject the belief that media companies should pursue models based on pay-for-content plans or philanthropy. The latest report from Pew concurs. Instead, we believe the best hope for media companies to make money is the old-fashioned way — by earning it from advertising.

We will begin with these tasks:

  1. Build an effective advertising model for news content delivered on smart phones, such as Apple’s iPhone.
  2. Create a better CraigsList.
  3. Show newspaper-centric companies how they can better meet the advertising needs of small- and medium-sized businesses.
  4. Re-imagine the homepage and display advertising.

This ad hoc group has been assembled by Alan Jacobson of Brass Tacks Design and Matt Mansfield of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Jacobson has been talking about online revenue for more than a decade. Mansfield is a former deputy managing editor of the San Jose Mercury News and is the current president of the Society for News Design.

The Society and its members have been at the cutting edge of virtually every newspaper innovation in the past 30 years including pagination, color, digital imaging and multimedia. SND has more direct leadership experience with radical change than any other group in the newspaper industry. And everyone in the industry agrees that radical change is needed.

Despite the fact that most of us come from editorial, we pledge to focus 100 percent of our energy on March 21 to developing advertising models. Our commitment is such that we are paying our own way. We are employed at the following places, but we are not representing them in this endeavor.

Vernon Loeb, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Eric Seidman, AARP
Jay Small, Scripps Interactive Newspapers Group and Small Initiatives, Inc.
Mary Specht, Gannett
Yuri Victor, Gannett
Jon Wile, The Washington Post
Chrys Wu, Washington Post Digital
Chris Amico, PBS NewsHour Online
Patrick Cooper, USA Today
Kristen Novak, USAToday.com
William Couch, USAToday.com
Wesley Lindamood, USAToday.com
John Kondis, National Geographic Digital Media
Kris Viesselman, National Geographic
Kaitlin Yarnell, National Geographic
Chris Courtney, Tribune Interactive
Ernie Smith, Express and ShortFormBlog
David Kordalski, Cleveland Plain Dealer
Steve Dorsey, Detroit Free Press and SND Secretary/Treasurer
Matt Mansfield,  SND President and Medill
Alan Jacobson, Brass Tacks Design

About RevenueTwoPointZero

  1. We have the means and the mission to deliver solutions, rather than merely talking about the challenge of preserving journalism.
  2. We will offer solutions on March 21 based on current technology, so they can be deployed immediately.
  3. Our solutions will be based on a proven funding strategy — advertising revenue — rather than failed or unproven strategies like micropayments and philanthropy.
  4. We will, however, be open to new forms that have revenue potential.

This group was assembled by Alan Jacobson of Brass Tacks Design and Matt Mansfield of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Jacobson has been talking about online revenue for more than a decade. Mansfield is a former deputy managing editor of the San Jose Mercury News and is the current president of the Society for News Design.