Has Bild stumbled upon a clever business model for news?

German newspaper Bild is “looking to expand without the expense of actually hiring new reporters,” reports The Guardian:

“Bild has joined up with discount supermarket chain Lidl to sell a basic digital camera to a legion of citizen journalists, who the tabloid hopes will contribute images to its coverage.

“”We can’t cover everything,” said Michael Paustian, a Bild managing editor. “We think it is an advance for journalism.”

“The pocket-sized camera has 2GB of memory, can shoot still pictures and video, and costs €69.99 (£60). It comes with software and a USB port that allows “reader-reporters” to upload content directly to editors who will be assigned to review it for publication.”

Predictably, the coverage has focused on the citizen journalism angle and the fears over standards and privacy…

But the real news here, I think, is that Bild may have stumbled across an interesting business model for news.

As I wrote in The Telegraph this week: “if you teach a man to fish, they not only eat for a lifetime, but you’ve just created a market for fishing rods, bait and angling magazines.”

With impeccable timing, Bild are doing just that: not just finding a way to fill their webpages, they’re creating a market for digital cameras.

I suspect that wasn’t their intention. But if they’ve been smart, they’ll have negotiated a good commission on the cameras. And if they’re smarter, they’ll realise that that could be as valuable a revenue stream as the advertising they can sell on the resulting user generated content.

Either way, it’s a new way to think about the news business: it’s not just about creating supply – it’s also about creating demand. Like Facebook’s virtual gifts, it may be that the major source of revenue for the news industry doesn’t even exist yet, and we’re just waiting for someone even smarter than the people at Bild to come up with it.

10 thoughts on “Has Bild stumbled upon a clever business model for news?

  1. Carl

    Genius! I’ll bet nobody in Germany had thought to buy a digital camera before this initiative.
    Oh. Wait a minute. Everybody in the world who has even spent one nanosecond thinking about taking a picture in the past five years already has a digital camera.
    Still, congratulations Bild on creating a new market. Or not.

  2. Andy

    I think you’re right Paul. I thought the same when Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter released a branded phone. Nothing seemed to come of that in the industry but I think making it easy to participate is the key.

    With the branded camera out there it’s going to be easy to get a community on flickr etc.

  3. Paul Bradshaw

    🙂 Carl – you miss my point. The ‘new market’ is people who need a digital camera to take pictures for the newspaper.
    Of course, it’s a crap new market, because as you point out, it’s not like most people don’t have either a digital camera, and I’m not clear if the USB port works like a Flip or is just a lead.
    But the principle remains.
    For instance, a better move would have been to sell a mobile phone, pre-installed with Shozu-type software which allows them to upload images and video to Bild (even better, give them initial free web access to stimulate play). People upgrade their mobiles more than they do their digital cameras.

  4. Dorien

    Interesting Paul! Guess if they can do that with digital cameras, they can -like you suggest in your comment- do it with a lot more: mobile phone (subscriptions), wifi or other access, laptops,….Curious where this is heading to.

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