Guardian’s open journalism is a failed business model, says Brooke

The Guardian's open journalism as represented by the Three little pigs ad produced by BBHAward-winning writer and journalist Heather Brooke, who recently published the book ‘The Revolution will be Digitised’, was a fan of  the Guardian’s ‘open journalism’ philosophy, but she has had a change of heart and recently labelled it “a failed business model”.

The Guardian’s open journalism initiative essentially articulates its view of the future of journalism, as free and open, in opposition to the growing spread of paywalls in the UK and the US.

The Guardian launched its open journalism project with huge fanfare and its highly praised TV ad, ‘Three little pigs’, which has gone on to be viewed more than a million times online.

The ad firmly pitched print as a footnote and showed how the Guardian was putting digital first through its many notable uses of digital to get its journalism to readers.

Brooke, who recently gave a masterclass at the Guardian focusing on investigative journalism, was speaking at the the Sydney Writer’s Festival in the ‘Journalism 2.0: the future of journalism’ session where she called the Guardian’s much vaunted ‘open journalism’ a “fail” and a business model that can not work.

Chiefly Brooke said because news, despite being such a commodity, is not free to prodcue, but remains expensive. This is from the transcript of the event:

“I’m actually…can I go on record here in a controversial way and say I’m very much against what The Guardian is doing, and the reason I say that is because originally I was probably a fan of it, but now I just see it as a fail…it’s a failed business model. It is an unsustainable business model to give away news for free, because news is not free, it’s expensive.

“It’s expensive both in terms of resources of the journalist’s time and also legal risk, getting sued. Somebody has to pay for that cost, and actually what The Guardian does, by giving it away for free, is it continues this unrealistic expectation the public has that you can do good civic journalism for nothing, and you can’t, and it makes it harder for other newspapers and other journalists to demand to be paid for their work, and I feel it’s unsustainable. I mean, the fact of the matter is The Guardian is haemorrhaging cash at a colossal rate,” Brooke’s said.

In February Andrew Miller, chief executive of the Guardian Media Group, ruled out erecting a paywall as the group tries to stem £40m in annual losses with an ongoing restructure and redundancy programme, although he admitted “things may change”.

It is impossible to tell who will win out, succeed and fail, and what the future holds in the on going debate of free versus paid for journalism. What is clear is that the Guardian is part of vocal minority of websites that see free as the future.

It is about more than that for Guardian, it has said that open and free journalism is the only way forward for its writing in all of its forms and it has embraced that like no other in the most radical of journalistic traditions.

And for that it deserves much praise as its efforts have thrown up many exciting digital developments from its apps, to uses of data, blogs and social media.

HT to @RichardOsley