April 11th, 2009
There is so much misunderstanding flying around about the economics of content on the web and the role of Google in the web’s content economy that it’s making my head hurt. So let’s see if we can straighten things out.
Google isn’t stealing content from newspapers and other media companies. It’s stealing their control over distribution, which has always been the engine of profits in media. Google makes more money than any other media company on the web because it has near monopoly control over content distribution (i.e. like a metro newspaper in the pre web era).
Those who argue that Google is a friend to content owners because it sends them traffic overlook the basic law of supply and demand. The value of “traffic” is entirely relative. The more content there is on the web, the less value that content has — because of the surfeit of ad inventory and abundance of free alternatives to paid content — and thus the less value “traffic” has.
The more content there is on the web, the less money every content creator makes, and the more money Google makes by taking a piece of that transaction.
March 16th, 2009
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer today because the first major metro newspaper to stop publishing in print but keep the news brand alive on the web. Seattlepi.com’s Executive Editor Michelle Nicolosi promises bold experiments, “to break a lot of rules that newspaper Web sites stick to.” And to be sure, the entire news industry will be watching to see what an editorial staff of 20 can accomplish compared to a staff of 165. (Given their intent to look “everywhere for efficiencies” — and that they won’t have “reporters, editors or producers—everyone will do and be everything” — I suspect they will accomplish more than most people think.)
But in addition to the key editorial question, Seattle has also now become a test case for one of the most important questions about the near-term future of the newspaper industry that is almost never asked:
What will happen to the print advertising when the newspaper stops publishing in print?
February 17th, 2009
Today, with the signing of the largest government stimulus program in history, Publish2 is announcing a new initiative to help newsrooms faced with declining resources continue to play the watchdog role that is so vital in this time of crisis. Digital Sunlight is our code name for a new feature set that will allow citizens to help journalists cover the stimulus act and the other big stories that affect our lives and our communities by submitting tips, leads, anecdotes, questions, etc. into a global searchable database.
In particular, we aim to overcome what we believe is a limitation of many “citizen journalism” initiatives to date, i.e. viewing citizen journalism as an end in itself, where citizens are supposed to replace professional journalists, filling up community sites with reporting. We believe citizen journalism is part of a larger process where professional journalists still play the vital role they always have. The key is to enable dynamic and ongoing collaboration between citizens and professional journalists, where citizens can become a true practical extension of the newsroom.
It’s all about collaboration.
January 25th, 2009
My post on the Washington state linking project focused on the awesome innovation involved and on the benefits of collaborative linking in general. But the project also shows why this kind of news aggregation is so useful for a local audience.
The biggest danger with news aggregation is that instead of acting as a filter, it can sometimes add to readers’ information overload. I read Andrew Sullivan’s blog as much for his links as for his original posts, but some days his link-blogging is just too prolific for me. (As Howard Owens put it: “To all the bloggers in my RSS reader: You post too frequently. Stop it. Let me catch up, for a change.”)
Commenter Matthias Spielkamp worried that the Washington link project might have had this effect: “I don’t have the time to read through 25 different stories to get a picture of the situation.”
But we shouldn’t mistake a long list of links for confusing overload just because it looks like overload from afar. The closer readers are to a story or event, the more they want to know about it and the less overloaded they’ll feel.
January 9th, 2009
The discussion about journalism’s future so often focuses on Big Changes — Kill the print edition! Flips for everyone! Reinvent business models NOW! — that it’s easy to forget how simple innovation can be.
Sometimes all you need is a few Tweets, a bunch of links, and some like-minded pioneers.
That’s how a quiet revolution began in Washington state Wednesday. Four journalists spontaneously launched one of the first experiments in collaborative (or networked) link journalism to cover a major local story.
But it gets better. Those four journalists weren’t in the same newsroom. In fact, they all work for different media companies. And here’s the best part: Some of them have never even met in person.
January 7th, 2009
Entering 2009, the future of media is undoubtedly a quandary, with no end of head-scratching across the industry. As with everything these days, it seems that it all comes down to radically changing economics. There are way too many conversations about the future of media, news, journalism, etc. going on out there that don’t reference economics, so I’m going to kick off the year with two personal anecdotes that illustrate the problem of media economics.
Last weekend, my wife and I wanted to watch Becoming Jane, because we’ve been on a Jane Austin kick. We watched Pride & Prejudice the night before (highly recommended). We subscribe to Netflix DVDs, but we hadn’t ordered the movie, and we didn’t feel like waiting. I went to iTunes, and it was available for purchase for $15, but not for renting (for $3 or $4). Amazon, same deal, not on their video on demand service, just the DVD for $15. I checked out Neflix’s Video on Demand offering and found that we don’t have the right hardware (nor do we have the required “unlimited” subscription). Hulu, well, they’re making progress on movies, but it’s mostly old stuff. Video store — the Hollywood video near us is an empty shell — and I can’t remember the last time we got into a car to rent a movie.
So here we were, ready to spend $4 even $5 dollars on content, and nobody would take our money. Seriously.
So that $5 stayed in my walled. No sale. No revenue. Nothing. We didn’t end up watching a movie.
Here’s another story.
December 17th, 2008
With all the debate over the future of newspapers, here’s a question I haven’t heard anybody ask (much less answer): If a metropolitan newspaper suddenly ceased to publish, leaving the city with no newspaper, what would happen to all of that newspaper’s ad dollars?
Most newspaper companies’ strategy right now is based on the assumption that you can’t shut down the print newspaper because it brings in 90% of the revenue, and you couldn’t possibly support the same news gathering operation with the 10% revenue slice that goes to the website. (The 10% problem)
There’s just one problem with this assumption. All of the ad dollars that the print newspaper gets are, by definition, ad dollars that the newspaper’s website does NOT get.