Can NewsLabs Give Laid-Off Journalists Another Chance?
But some of you may be able to transform yourselves into one-person news factories, says Paul Biggar, who wants to make money while helping you do that.
Biggar is a co-founder of NewsLabs, a start-up that promises to create a business around the work of individual journalists. The idea is that the writer writes and NewsLabs does everything else: Ad sales, “community management,” promoting the work on Google, Facebook, Twitter et al, and so forth. In exchange, the company wants a 20 percent cut of all revenue.
In other words, Biggar and co-founder Nathan Chong want to become publishers with an all-freelance workforce.
NewsLabs just graduated from Y Combinator’s three-month bootcamp and has been working with a starter group of journalists for a couple months. So it’s still mostly theoretical at this point. My concern is that the help NewsLabs says it can offer doesn’t solve the real problem: The economics of Web publishing are brutal, and in most cases they only work on a Google- (GOOG) or Yahoo (YHOO)-size scale.
Biggar tells me that NewsLabs won’t solely be dependent on ad revenue, so that’s good. But all of the ancillary businesses that can support a Web-based journalist–conferences, job boards, and the like–also require either great scale or a very, very specialized niche. So Biggar and co-founder Nathan Chong have their work cut out for them.
Here’s Biggar’s extended pitch, via an interview I taped with him this week at Y Combinator’s Demo Day presentations: