A failed experiment in "new" journalism
About three and a half months ago, I wrote about a new startup called NewsLabs as a potential "game changer for journalists and journalism." Game over - Romenesko reports that NewsLabs has folded.
The objective was for NewsLabs to build a technology platform (and news site, called NewsTilt) that would give journalists a means to build their own brands (and collect 80% of the advertising revenue generated by traffic to their articles). In an interview with eMediaVitals in March, co-founder Paul Biggar described the business model:
We’re a destination site for news. The content providers, the journalists, earn 80 percent of the revenue. We handle the back end, things like SEO, so the journalists can focus on the writing, reporting, content and research.
The idea is that no longer is there a newspaper which reports the news. The journalists themselves are the brand.
NewsLabs' other co-founder Nathan Chong, in an email posted by Romenesko, admits to overreaching:
If I could rewind and start again then I believe the pitch for NewsLabs should have been simpler and much more realistic: we will build you a technology platform and strive to work hard for you as programmers... but we cannot magically generate you an online brand or guarantee traffic.
It's disappointing that they pulled the plug so early - I have a message into Biggar asking why - but the thing about experiments is that they don't always pan out. Trying out new ideas - even in painful public view - is the only way that we'll find future models for journalism that have real staying power.