GlobalPost strikes CBS deal

GlobalPost, a foreign affairs website, has a big new deal, but also apparently some problems with its business model. According to the New York Times, “CBS News plans to announce Monday that it has formed a partnership with GlobalPost,, a foreign news Web site, that will provide CBS with reporting from its approximately 70 affiliated correspondents in 50 countries.”

“In the early going, at least, GlobalPost reporters will provide information, not work on the air, with CBS using its reporters and anchors to flesh out coverage for broadcast.”

The deal is reported and analysed also at Journalism.co.uk.

This is good news, but also indirectly shows the weakness of ideas about getting readers to pay for content. GlobalPost aimed at making money three ways: from paid-up members, syndication revenues (selling content to other distributors, like CBS), and advertising. Sounds like only one of these is working. “The site has had no problems attracting readers: [President and CEO Philip S. Balboni] said the site averaged more 400,000 unique users a month. But membership has been a tough sell, with subscribers to its so-called Passport Service, which costs about $100 a year, numbering only in the hundreds, he said.”

The site may also try to make money by hiring out its reporters as analysts, Online Journalism Review says. “GlobalPost,… has started a custom-research operation under its premium Passport service. For $104 a year ($50 for students and senior citizens), Passport members get access to special content, join weekly conference calls with reporters abroad, and make story suggestions to be voted on by other Passport members. But they also can request, for an additional fee, custom reporting by a freelancer or a GlobalPost reporter on a story of special interest.”

As OJR points out, the Economist Intelligence Unit has long offered research and consulting skills alongside the Economist. But in this case, the brand is supporting an additional revenue stream; for GP, the revenue comes from other media distributors. I think GlobalPost is a great idea but I wonder how sustainable the business economics of this are. If it aims to convert a percentage of readers and readers are thin on the ground, then this won’t work. If, on the other hand, it aims to succeed by selling content to existing media, then it is either a freelance network or a news agency (or both). This probably doesn’t enlarge the space for international news; it just shifts it.

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