Media & News Industry Ripe For On-Demand Disruption
Freelancers working in media is by no means a novel concept—but it’s certainly on the rise. In fact, the U.S. Census indicated growth in self-employment across every media-related occupation from 2003-2013. The number of photographers increased from 45.4% to 58.7%, news reporters grew from 3.9% to 14.9%, and miscellaneous media and communication workers exploded, from 7.1% to a whopping 31.4%.
While no research exists to explain the growth of this workforce, the Department for Professional Employees (DPE) hypothesizes that “the self-employed arts and media workforce is older than traditional arts and media workers, and those older workers may be seeking freedom from the traditional 9 to 5 schedule and seek out self-employment by choice.”
Another possible explanation? The nature of news and media today. In a world dominated by 24 hour news cycles, social media, and smart phones, timing is everything. “There’s never been such pressure to speak before one knows,” says science writer James Gleick, who traced the increasing speed of society in his book “Faster” and the deluge of data in last year’s “The Information.” There’s always been a desire to gather and disseminate news, he points out, “but never until now has it been global and instantaneous.”
We live in a world of instant gratification. We want information, but more than that, we want it quickly. Because of this dynamic, it’s not surprising to see today’s news and media organizations adapting. In an effort to stay relevant and responsive in a never-ending news cycle, more and more media outlets are engaging independent professionals, including reporters, journalists, photographers and more. This “on-demand” workforce allows these outlets to radically accelerate how they’re able to cover, publish and disseminate content. “The media segment appears to be percolating with respect to digital transformation and talent sourcing and engagement,” says Spend Matters analyst Andrew Karpie.
The Transition Is Underway
The Washington Post, the nation’s third largest news publication, recently launched the Talent Network—a platform dedicated to connecting freelancers across the U.S. with their Washington D.C.-based newsroom. Using this resource, editors are building an on-demand workforce of journalists, photographers, and videographers across the nation who can pursue and report on stories in real-time.
Vox Media is also working on what they call the Freelancers project, a resource that enables editors and creative teams to recruit freelancers for various real-time assignments, Forbes has an ever-growing network of independent contributors that help increase traffic to their website.
The New York Times offered a training course on freelance reporting, and even CBS has current openings for project-based freelancers. This new labor model is allowing media companies, publishers, digital outlets, newspapers—even large parent companies—to have eyes and ears all around the world for important events they simply can’t reach on their own.
Disrupting The Status Quo
As things stand, the processes that connects these news organizations to their talent in the field are, well, a bit outdated. Dillon Baker, an independent professional who worked on a story for BuzzFeed, reflected on his experience: “Edits were done over Google Docs, contracts were passed between a number of business intermediates, and the [hard copy] check took almost a month to arrive in my mailbox.”
Other professionals are facing similar obstacles. From the time-consuming processes like mailing signed contracts back and forth, to sending checks via snail mail, the urgency being demanded of these professionals isn’t being reciprocated on the back end. The antiquated technology these organizations have used for years to manage this function is now paralyzing the momentum and immediacy the industry itself thrives on.
To bridge these gaps, new technology is emerging that allow these companies to dramatically streamline the management of their independent workforce into a seamless, modern-day process. On-demand workforce technology is finally producing the efficiencies and simplicity that the industry so desperately needs. Rather than using disparate point solutions to handle different parts of the process — contract signing, credential verification, rate negotiations, assignment routing, and payment — media outlets are starting to realize the benefits freelance management technology can have in helping them expand their reach, improve their responsiveness and upgrade their content.
While this transition is still in its early stages, it’s clear the media industry is ripe for a powerful disruption that will fundamentally alter how they produce content, report news and cover the world.