Economics of Abundance

Here’s what most public media outlets still don’t get — especially in the corner offices. If you get this economic concept, you’ll understand why creating media and throwing it out there isn’t enough.

There are two scarcities that public service media firms can utilize immediately, and probably more that haven’t yet quickly come to mind:

  1. unparalleled-quality news / information / data / analysis, especially when coupled with excellent curation
  2. leadership and convening of tribes by geography and public service interest

News, even top-quality news, is not enough. Because once it’s released into the digital world, the price falls to zero or near zero, so you can’t monetize it directly. You can ask for donations to support your public service (sound familiar?), but the appeal to altruism — while it works to a degree — doesn’t achieve full financial support. (Look at the balance sheets of public media companies across the country; they don’t live by altruistic donations alone).

But just as the musician makes money from t-shirts and live events and other opportunities to “experience” the music beyond simple recordings, so too can public service media gather money via events and participation in limited-access tribes or communities of interest. Plus, the simple creation of those events and communities is a new service for most pubmedia outlets. The communities can be created online and the tribes can be led and organized offline.

I know — some of these terms may be confusing if you haven’t read Seth Godin or Jono Bacon. But that’s where public media has to go. Broadcasting is not enough. Publishing online is not enough. The public needs more, wants more and will part with money to get it.