I’ve already written how my grand desire is to use hyperlocal journalism to re-engineer the business model of mainstream’s local journalism, so that synergetically they can support and develop each other’s futures.
Unfortunately, one of those thoughts out of nowhere (which never really are, now are they?) has just led me to wonder if funding hyperlocal won’t actually be far easier than we think. And if I am right, the consequences for at the very least mainstream local journalism will be even more disastrous than anyone has suggested to date.
That thought? For me, it probably started germinating at this post of mine on the #UBI – unconditional or universal basic income – which dates from 2013. An explanatory video I embedded at the time can be found below.
And as I pointed out, whilst the idea may still appear foolish to many, there are strong reasons for even corporate capitalists to be strongly in favour of #UBI (the bold is mine today):
As the video makes clear, an unconditional basic income as described would almost certainly be cheaper to administrate than our present web of usually means-tested benefits regimes. It would guarantee humane minimums for everyone; it would allow the entrepreneurial instincts of those more interested in dosh than the rest of us to flourish on the basis of well- and securely-distributed income streams; and it would bring us all kicking and screaming out of the darkest wells of 19th century capitalism.
So. Let’s say that after a few more miserable cases like Greece, everyone, even business, decides that in order to function, people – ie clients and customers – need disposable income. This is exactly when #UBI will be implemented: not as a humane solution to poverty but as a practical solution to capitalism’s circle of innovation, growth and marketplace dynamics.
Once #UBI comes in, tech, food, leisure and car corps will of course benefit from such predictable spending. But in every big change in society, someone always will lose out. And in this particular case it will surely be the content industry as it currently stands. Who’ll need paid-up journalists – or even a resource-hungry ad-plagued website – when volunteers, using cheap or zero-cost social media, tablets, smartphones and PCs they inevitably have for other purposes, can supplement their guaranteed income from the state with other activities of such a pleasurable and community-focussed nature?
In and around Chester, we already have several sites which deliver different kinds of sustainability for their producers. From wrexham.com and deeside.com to notting-hoole.co.uk to the mainstream Chester Chronicle and so forth, we have a rich ecosystem of greater or lesser professional and/or personal dedication and results.
Now I know for many volunteers, running a hyperlocal site can be a labour of love/hate. You love the results; but the free time you have to give up out of your own pocket can sometimes rankle, sometimes even depress a tad as your readers often promise their time – but ultimately, for various perfectly valid reasons, fail to become core contributors to a project.
But what if we coupled to hyperlocal journalism as it stands a #UBI?
Wouldn’t the sky be the limit for the business models of amateur content – and wouldn’t it be far far easier to create super-endowed communication hubs with lots of active and committed contributors?
And if so, where would this all leave the Trinity Mirrors of the world – perhaps the wider national press too? Or even the hybrids like wrexham.com and deeside.com, whose ambitious scope and reach often puts the traditional mainstream to shame – yet, in a way, must surely sustain their own significant overheads …
The wider question being, of course: if any citizen could live off #UBI, what would happen to the whole sector of content – not just in Chester but across the nation – as it currently stands?
Who, in fact, would need to pay any overlording digital-content corp for anything any more?