Kelsey Williams

Journalistic Background: Ms. Kelsey Williams graduated from American University and worked after her graduation in DC at Builder Magazine, a publication about home development and construction. Afterword, she worked as a sport writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press covering local sports.

Business Models to Replace Print: Williams considers print journalism on its way out due to the development and the power of the digital era. As much as she likes the morning routine with her paper, Williams was quite confident that the economic incentive for print journalism to continue will just keep declining. She predicts that newspapers will go the way of novelty items, much as music records or VHS tapes have gone in the current decade.

Yet the problem with the migration of media online is that the Internet has always been a place where content is expected to be free. Williams calls this expectation of freedom a “tremendous problem,” since such a perception ignores the economic realities inherent to a journalist. “Investigative reporting takes a lot of work, a lot of risk and I would hope that most people would recognize that” said Williams. Furthermore, online ad revenues just don’t seem to pay these organizations enough for their reporting.

This disconnect between expectations and reality has fueled the rise of innovative business models and wholly new kinds of journalism and journalists. “Lots of journalists these days are freelance,” said Williams. “Often, these people have been laid off from newspapers and are desperate to find work. It is a risky type of journalism because the journalist doesn’t know if they will get paid or accepted into a media publication.” Blogging is another form of journalism that has recently emerged, and Williams describes it as a unique outlet — one that is more niche, conversational, and often inaccurate.

Williams also discussed the new forms of old media empires. There is a whole new lexicon for the kinds of business models journalistic enterprises are now offering: the paywall (full articles cost money), the tiered model (some articles are free and some aren’t), ‘freemium’ plans (the articles are free with ad space), and hyperlocal models (very local reporting in the efforts of attracting local business ad revenue) are just a few. She described The New York Times’ paywall as an encouraging start, but still something easy to bypass for someone with any level of tech savvy.

Williams describes media in a transition state. She talks earnestly about the future of journalism, but only presents possible solutions to the question of money. The central conundrum that seems to arise is neither purely online advertising nor purely proprietary content. The former isn’t economically sustainable; the latter doesn’t meet the expectations of the consumers of media online. It seems that the real media revolution of the digital age won’t be in media content, but in its economics.

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