Sunrise over the city that never sleeps. CC from Flickr by joiseyshowaa

The Dusk of the Day Business Model

When he first smelled the dusty air of New York City, he whispered to himself to practice every day. He wanted to become a great composer, the best of the best.

Of course he knew he had to practice vigorously. But New York was full of talented people. It was whispered that the city might get an opera house in few years, but at the moment, there really was no need for composers.

After weeks of job searching, sitting in a coffee shop on Mulberry Street, he angrily lay down the book "The Christian Lyre"  after a sudden realization that there is no way he could be good enough. And the horrible afterthought: if he was not to become the best, how could he ever make a living as a composer? He had some money left but that would not take him very far. Heavy snowflakes started to fall behind the coffee shop window.

The winter was cold and dark. He had to give up his only pleasure, reading, because newspaper subscriptions cost six cents per piece. Depressed after betraying his dreams, he put up a printing business in the outskirts of the city.

It didn't do particularly well. The inflation was booming, and the printing shop was in a bad location.

After two years with the business barely making it he was running out of the last savings he had. It was windy and dark outside, but his name was Day. And Benjamin Day was not someone to give up easily.

One evening he sat down and thought about it. There were some clients, but not enough. He had a printing press that was operational only short periods during the day. What the hell am I going to do with this machine, should I sell it? To whom? he wondered.

It was a long night and he hadn't slept a minute but finally the first rays of the sun beamed through the dusty window and drew a circle of light on the small notebook on his table.

The notebook contained the names of all of his clients. Most of the clients were advertisers who printed wall posters on the streets. At that very moment, Benjamin Day stood up, shocked. What if, he wondered, what if I would print magazines and set the price to one penny, and ask money from the advertisers to make the ridiculous discount possible. That day in 1833, Benjamin Day printed the first issue of the New York Sun. It was not an instant success, but proved sustainable in the long run.

Actually, the business model was so good that it was soon copied by many. The press as we know it was born.

The world has changed since then. Now, the model that worked perfectly for hundreds of years is dying, sinking like the Titanic. But the need for journalism is not going away.

The Day model that used to make journalism accessible to everyone is not sustainable anymore. The current media system famously lacks economic sustainability, but there is also a lack of political sustainability, as well as social/legal one. And of course, as far as environmental sustainability is concerned, newspapers are printed on dead trees.

I’ll discuss in a later post how the lack of sustainability in the current press causes challenges to journalism. The common culture is lost if our scope in news shrinks to the people near us, or to topics that are most important to us. While we hide behind the cozy filter bubble, the challenges facing each one of us are more and more global in nature.

To maintain the common culture, we need journalism. There is a grave need for sustainable structures that allow journalism to reshape, regenerate and flourish. Scoopinion is one of these structures.

The events described are dramatized based on life events of Benjamin Day. The author is a specialist writing stories about the future, not the past, so there might be small errors in this story especially concerning the 1830s' New York City. Please email johannes@scoopinion.com a correction if you have better knowledge. Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Image Credit: Sunrise over the city that never sleeps. CC from Flickr by joiseyshowaa