Rejecting conventional wisdom
“Proven” media formulas can’t match what WORLD has: you
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Here’s some conventional advice on how to start a news organization:
Step 1—Consider starting some other sort of business.
Step 2—If you insist on being in the news game, go light on actual reporting. Too expensive.
Step 3—You’ll still need newsy content, so jump on a bandwagon. Stick to established, proven narratives.
Step 4—One word: clickbait. You’ll need an audience, so make sure the reporting you do generates clicks. You won’t believe what happens next.
Step 5—One more word: Twitter. Everyone knows that Twitter is the best way to make snarky points and try to secure the approval of the professional peers you want.
Step 6—Check your progress: If your audience isn’t angry/anxious/panicked/gloating after clicking through, you’re doing something wrong.
Step 7—Sell lots of ads, and remember: Nothing sells like ads that look a lot like your content.
Step 8—Find a foundation that will underwrite your losses. Otherwise, return to Step 1 and take it more seriously.
Before Joel Belz started WORLD, he solicited a good bit of advice from others in the publishing business. I know that most of it was less cynical than what I’ve proposed above, but he did hear from many that his proposed model would not work. Joel’s vision really did go against business as usual in the world of journalism then, and certainly did not fit with what most news organizations appear to be doing today.
We can be thankful that Joel ignored a lot of advice along the way, but how did WORLD survive what a friendly rival called an “impossible publishing formula”?
Joel had—and WORLD still has—a secret weapon: an audience of readers and listeners and viewers who avoid clickbait like an airborne virus, who actually want deep and honest reporting and analysis that promotes the right ordering of society and human flourishing, who still have reason to trust their news source, and who realize social media is mostly sound and fury, signifying nothing.
We have you. You are the secret of WORLD’s success.
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