How I Want My Online News

If no one wants my money, then I'll keep them.

I know how I want my online news served.

I love news and I love journalism. And I’d love to pay more for online news. Journalists deserve to make a living.

However, it’s not up to me to serve online news on a platform where I wouldn’t mind paying for news.

Let me show you what I mean:

Table of Contents

    If I’m Donating My Attention

    When it comes to paying for donating my attention, I do have certain standards. I will pay for online news—if I get something in return.

    If a news platform is expecting me to just hand over both my money and my attention in exchange for a sub-par experience, then they need to revisit their strategy.

    The news organisation produce news and in return, they get my attention to monetise. This is not a particularly fair deal; attention is perhaps the most valuable commodity in existence today. Therefore, I’m disappointed when news outlets are trying to charge me twice.

    They can charge me. Or they can show me ads. Never both.

    News Behind Paywalls

    A paywall is a way for online news platforms to stop me from donating my attention, which is fine, but there is no shortage of alternative news sources for consumers to choose from today.

    So, if a news outlet wants to take my money, I’m not going to want to see any ads. But it doesn’t stop there, unfortunately.

    As it stands, my standards make it virtually impossible to find a relevant news outlet willing to deliver news to me in a fashion that will cater to my specific needs. Am I simply unreasonable?

    I’ll let you be the judge.

    My Requirements for Online News

    These are my requirements:

    • Multichannel ecosystemI want my news delivered through an eco-system where the website, the app, and the API are perfectly in sync with each other. Any changes I make to the app should be reflected precisely and instantly across all platforms.
    • Open sharing for members—I don’t mind paywalls as long as I, as a paying member of the community, can share each and every news item at no additional cost—while allowing my followers to click and consume what I share without having to pay or register. It’s free marketing for the platform, FFS.
    • Advanced customisation options—I don’t want the news platform to try and guess what I might be interested in. Instead, I prefer full customisation all across the board. Ranking factors, categories, series, tags, notification behaviours, a percentage mix of topics, keywords, geolocation, weather etc. Don’t worry, I can handle it.
    • Quality-assured syndication—On any given day, there must be enough news stories that are relevant to me. However, it would be impossible for one news organisation alone to cover both local and international stories and general and special interest stories. Therefore, I don’t mind if the news platform acts as a gatekeeper for syndicated news content. I only care about the facts being accurate.
    • Superuser-generated content—I want to be able to add my comments to separate news items. (Remember Google Reader?) And it should be easy for my followers both on and off the platform to subscribe to my comment feed without having to pay or register. It’s free marketing for the platform, FFS.
    • Member commentary—I don’t want to see anonymous comments or comments from non-paying news consumers. But I do require to see comments from people who (like me) are paying members—and I want to see those comments internally ranked through paid member upvotes per user, not per article.
    • Member profile connectivity—If I develop a personal trust and appreciation for certain value-adding commenters, I want to be able to see their input in a prime position adjacent to the news item. Commenters above a certain approval score from the community should also be allowed to add external links in their comments.
    • Vertical related content—If I read a news story about a forest fire or whatever, as a paying member, I want to see related links to every other forest fire-related news story going back at least 20 years. Context is what I consider to be real value.
    • External linking—Journalists should be encouraged to add external links to their reports so news consumers easily can validate their facts. These outbound links should be visible (and considered an included service) to the paying community.
    • Advanced database search—As a paying member of the news community, I require powerful search capabilities. I want to be able to do keyword searches and get a full and comprehensive search result. This is an essential part of modern news consumption and arguably the best way to inform oneself.
    • Fewer URLs—Each and every news item should have one URL. If the story expands over time, the URL should be updated; I don’t want new URLs for each consecutive event. I would also like for reporters to upload raw footage and audio files in case I’d like to dig deeper into the news story.
    • Referral loop—If I refer a new paying customer to the news platform, I want a temporary (but generous!) deduction of my monthly subscription fee. Dropbox should serve as an inspiration for the referral loop.
    • Data mining and privacy—I want the news platform to collect my data and use it to keep my subscription fee at a reasonable level by selling consumer data analysis to companies and organisations. Just keep my personal contact details private to protect me from spam.
    • No advertising for paying members—The news platform must choose; either charge me a subscription fee or expose me to advertising. I will never be okay with both.
    • Factual accuracy over speed—The news platform should prioritise wisely. I would happily sacrifice reporting speed and in-depth analysis as long as I get the bare facts at some point. Factual accuracy is much more valuable to me than hasty half-truths and talking heads gasping for airtime.
    • Professional UIX—Apart from being easy-to-use, the user interface should also be aesthetically pleasing. If it’s cool or corporate doesn’t matter, but refrain from making it cute or corny. News are serious business and should be conveyed as such.

    Now, I don’t think I’m being unreasonable.
    Or am I?

    There has to be a plausible explanation as to why there’s not a single news outlet out there who are ready to take my money in exchange for the service I want. Don’t it?

    I guess news publishers simply haven’t yet understood the sheer power of earning a solid base of co-creating superusers.

    Cover photo by Jerry Silfwer (Prints/Instagram)


    Jerry Silfwer
    Jerry Silfwer
    Jerry Silfwer, aka Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.
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