Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
How South Africa’s largest digital news outlet plans to cover the chaotic 2024 election
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
June 15, 2011, 10 a.m.

Michael Skoler: Community, not audience, is a new business model

Editor’s Note: Our sister publication Nieman Reports is out with its summer 2011 issue, “Links That Bind Us,” which focuses on the role community plays in journalism. We’re highlighting a few entries that connect with subjects we follow at the Lab, but go read the whole issue. In this piece, Michael Skoler writes about the (monetary) value of community.

Nieman Reports summer 2011 coverA few years ago, Public Radio International coaxed its most popular host, Ira Glass of “This American Life,” into digital cinema. Ira had already expanded his famed radio program into a traveling stage show that toured a dozen cities a year. With this new idea he would perform one show and beam it live to hundreds of movie theaters around the United States at the same time. Efficient, yes, but would it be appealing, Ira wondered.

After all, people came to see him and even hoped to meet him. Radio is an intimate medium, and with Ira, so is a live show. What would be appealing about watching him on a screen from thousands of miles away in the company of a hundred strangers? This wasn’t a sporting event — the main draw for digital cinema — it was journalism, storytelling journalism. And people could already watch Ira on DVD.

So would they come and pay $20 a ticket?

They came in droves. More than 30,000 watched the first digital show at hundreds of theaters across the U.S. and Canada in the spring of 2008. The next year, 47,000 turned out. They came to be with other fans, experiencing something they all loved together. The success wasn’t so much the power of Ira, but the power of his community.

Keep reading »

POSTED     June 15, 2011, 10 a.m.
Show tags
 
Join the 60,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
How South Africa’s largest digital news outlet plans to cover the chaotic 2024 election
“There is definitely anticipation in the air of change — not radical change, but some change.”
Postcards and laundromat visits: The Texas Tribune audience team experiments with IRL distribution
As social platforms falter for news, a number of nonprofit outlets are rethinking distribution for impact and in-person engagement.
Radio Ambulante launches its own record label as a home for its podcast’s original music
“So much of podcast music is background, feels like filler sometimes, but with our composers, it never is.”