Journalists can be their own publishers — able to produce, distribute, market and monetize their own content. It's not a new concept, but it continues to gain traction on new platforms like the iPad. Journalists are gaining more tools and platforms to be individual editorial brands — a trend that traditional publishers should not ignore.
In the shake-up of editorial jobs amid the recession, it was never a surprise to hear of full-time journalists moving to freelance jobs, whether by choice or necessity. Some of the haze has lifted, bringing new jobs and opportunities for editors
. But the necessity to pave our own way, or at least build up websites to showcase work beyond a resume, has made journalists more aware of their individual worth outside of a media company.
Social media has of course been another big driver. Journalists are more than bylines; able to interact with our readers via Twitter or start their own blogs. Most recently, Facebook is pushing journalists to use Facebook Pages
to promote their individual brands.
Emerging platforms to sell content
E-readers and tablets have further fueled the trend by renewing interest in long-form content
. Start-up companies and new marketplaces have emerged to offer journalists (and publishers) new ways to market and sell their work. Take Kindle Singles
, which both publishers and individual authors can use to sell pieces of long-form journalism directly to the consumer.
Byliner's editor, Mark Bryant, told Nieman the site will be less competition for publishers and more of a central gathering place for long-form journalism. “If we can help create this narrative nonfiction community, and if Byliner can become a clearinghouse for that, that will help float everybody‘s boat,” he said. “We’re friendly with The Atavist,” and “I really admire groups like longform.org. They’re all great, and I think we can help each other.” (Longform.org
curates long-form journalism from around the Web.)
A new marketplace for freelancers
Technology can also enable more streamlined buying and selling of content, which is what Ebyline
is trying to do for the freelancing business. The company, which launched last year, works with publishers to connect them to freelancers and/or build a revenue stream through licensing content. It recently expanded to add audio and video content, in addition to articles.
Ebyline CEO and co-founder Bill Momary
said the struggling media business model has caused more publishers to rely on freelancers. His pitch was to create a marketplace where quality is still emphasized. “As soon as you start cutting your resources, now what are you left with? That's where Ebyline fils a void,” he said in a phone interview. “If you're going [the freelance] route anyway, do so now without sacrificing quality.”
As of earlier this month, the exchange had about 1,000 vetted freelancers and 45 different publications (like Scripps and The Los Angeles Times) and has processed about 40,000 projects through the system.
"It’s a new concept for freelancers to feel confident that they can go out on their own by being able to place content on an exchange,” Momary said.
The system allows freelancers to work directly with editors or be their own editors, deciding what to cover and putting it on the exchange — something Momary expects to get more legs.
"There’s a surplus of freelancers out there that have enough expertise in a specific area that they’re really becoming their own editor in a sense,” he said. “Now editors can buy from you as if you’re a publication ... That’s what we think is really the next step and the next avenue.”