Below is the text of a draft mission-statement document composed by Austin G Mackell, first sent on 25 Feb 2013 to Patrick Galey, which circulated in 2013 among early recruits of ImportantCool. No final version of the document was produced.
It’s no secret that The Internet has dramatically disrupted the standard media business model. To
understand the nature of this disruption, one must first properly understand this model and how it
works, or used to.
Those who read a newspaper, watch a TV show or listen to a radio station often think of
themselves as media consumers. This is incorrect. They are the product that media creates, a
collection of eyeballs, ears – an audience. This product, once generated, is studied and weighed for
value: ages, incomes, marital status, postcodes, and inflated estimates of total volume are
collected, and presented to businesses as proof of quality – a process taken to Foucaultian heights
in the digital age by facebook, google adwords and other creepy big brother skynet shit.
If the media company is lucky, businesses and other advertisers will find their audience interesting,
and pay for access, if not… well… there goes so many TV shows that never made it past the pilot.
It was always a cruel world, but the internet didn’t just make it crueller, it turned it completely on
The big loss for the newspapers hasn’t been the money people are no longer spending at the
newsagent, but the “rivers of gold” of classified advertising that has moved online. The former,
while substantial, was always largely eaten up by printing and distribution costs, the latter, a
straightforward business of selling a dollars worth of column inches on to the general public for
two or more, was, along with big glossy corporate advertising, always where the real money was.
The two big exceptions to the old way of doing business have were government and community
media outlets, such as the NPR network in the United States and similar institutions which rely (or
at least should rely) on viewer donations. It was out of this model that DemocracyNow, XXXX,
and other success stories of the internet age grew.
The revenue streams of these and other outlets that rely on the ̈online busking ̈ model may not be
as big as those of the mainstream players, or even their online divisions, but they are growing as
the industry transitions to digital distribution, rather than shrinking as is the case for the big boys.
There are many reasons for this, but one is that they, in a way that corporate media never can, can
call upon the sense of civic duty that their audiences feel to support journalism as a civic good.
Supporters of New Matilda aren’t just paying so that they can access the product, they’re paying
because they want it to be there for everybody. Putting this content behind paywalls, making it
unsharable on social networks and unavailable to the public at large, lessens the value of good
journalism to the conscientious consumer, rather than increasing it.
This reason leads into and overlaps with another, seemingly paradoxical element of the new media
economy: that in the digital age the audience must become the customers.
At ImportantCool we’ve decided to take these lessons to their logical conclusion and completely
invert the whole control structure of the traditional media business.
We intend to give journalists maximum freedom by a) guaranteeing tenure: No one night stands.
ImportantCool won’t be an easy place to get a job, but once you ́re in you ́re in for life, like the
Evil League Of Evil in Dr Horrible’s Singalong Blog. OK there might be a way to get kicked out
for malpractice or something but it won’t be the whim of an editor or a distant shareholder,
because; b) The journalists will own the company as a forprofit cooperative, the editors elected
by them and in terms of economic structure their employees, serving as some combination of
factandspellingandgrammarchecker, writing coach, and coordinator/catherder for a pack of
journalists who have almost carte blanche almost.
ImportantCool, having placed the editors beneath the journalists’ heel, can hardly ask them to
determine the hard questions of which journalist get’s to fly to Ibiza to interview the first all model
olympic beach volleyball team as they launch their new caviar flavoured champaign brand in the
nude, that will be up to the funders/subscribers/members – those who have contributed to the site,
either directly, through shopping at the Important Cool Store, or by buying our limited edition
quarterly print editions Paper Fetish, will be able to vote in monthly online budget meetings, which
will determine which story ideas get funded and which don’t.
If a journalist wants to whack out a snappy blog piece, snap a few photos or upload a video report,
no one can stop them, and the editors will be obliged to work with them to publish in promptly,
only holding up the process if they are sure there is a serious problem and are confident that the
ImportantCool community at large would take their side in an open disputation process (which
would be the outcome if the journalist and editor cannot come to an amicable agreement). Every
view that post gets them will earn them more profitshares in the company (all journalists will have
an equal vote in decisions to appoint managers and editors etc).
If however, a journalist wants serious money to do serious investigative work and/or feel they
cannot justify the time and effort without some immediate compensation, they must submit a pitch
and a budget into a pool of ideas that the community will rank and prioritise. Here there would be
another opportunity for members (or even non members) to contribute directly, kickstarterstyle,
to individual reporting projects they would like to see happen, thereby bringing down the overall
cost to the community at large and increasing the projects chance of inclusion.
… [more explanation here?] ….
…….The Populist forprofit media coop.The cocopops of the internet variety pack.