I know how to save journalism

March 5th, 2009

Everyone knows (or should know) that the Internet is slowly destroying journalism as a profession. Papers are going out of business left and right. Even the ones still in business are bleeding ink.

People have floated a bunch of ideas to keep journalism alive.

These include charging micropayments for viewing articles online, best viagra malady having rich people endow news organizations, viagra sovaldi and even having government directly subsidize journalism.

I don’t think any of those will work.

Why would readers make micropayments when there’s always someone giving the same stuff away for free? (Also, micropayments would destroy linking which is one of the main traffic drivers for news sites.)

How many news institutions can survive on the generosity of rich people?

And do we really want our news to be state-sponsored?

My suggestion…actually prediction…is that Google will eventually step in to save journalism.

Why?

Because Google (along with most of us bloggers) is basically a parasite.

Without living, thriving sources of content to search for and link to, Google is out of business.

How many links on the Internet do you think lead back to the New York Times or the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, already? (Look! There are two more.)

In the end, Google will save journalism for the most basic of reasons: self-interest.

How will they do it?

That, I’m less certain about. Although, I suspect it will end up being some type of profit sharing on ads.

Think of it as a reverse pay-per-click to reverse the decline of the news business.

Entry Filed under: Media,Observations

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Fuzz Martin  |  March 5th, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    Funny, the station that I work for is owned by a newspaper company, and I recently suggested to higher ups to “take the offer” if Google or Yahoo ever come knocking.

    I do, however, believe that in the near future, some of the nation’s most well-known newspapers will cease paper delivery and move their product completely online. It will have to start in a city that isn’t run by unions, though.

  • 2. dpk  |  March 5th, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    It’s not “the internet” that’s the cause, it’s the fact that the way the web is being built now offers more, different, and better ways to do advertising. Twitter/Facebook has no business model and are too big to fail because the minute they turn on boring banner ads, they make millions. But they won’t do that. They will invent the new standard for the #1 best ways to advertise. And they will own it. They’ll make billions. And unlike Craig’s List, they may not profit by shrinking their market as they take control of it.

    Newspapers and other subscription and ad-based print publication used to have a near monopoly on advertising space. They didn’t adapt to change. TV took a bite, and it proved not to be as big as they feared. It’s a different kind of TV–the web as an interactive multimedia, multi-channel communications network that’s threatening TV now, and very likely to drive print media to a single digit market share.

    That market share won’t sustain large corporate media. And at the same time, the economy, and the economic structures of the new economy (sharing, open source) doesn’t favor business as usual, big corporation style. Corporate America is largely a secondary welfare state that gives paycheck to a lot of useless, mediocre, sub-average talent. That’s going to change, along with the meaningfulness of college degrees. You can go online and sort out the BS pretty fast these days, when it comes to hiring and buying. A lot can be done through small, nimble teams whose office is the web. There are a lot of problems with that too, but this seems to be the way things are likely to go.

    As for Google, I think you are right about their own interests matching those of “journalism.” I’ve long wondered about the implications of Google giving such high rank and authority to newspapers. Some of that has to be artificial, the sites are (or recently were) so poorly built and not search-engine friendly at all. Google is all about authority defined by relevance, and relevance is defined by who links to you, and how many links they have. This is a game that can be entirely unhinged from real informational value, but I am pretty sure that if the US ends up with just a handful of newspapers left, Alex Jones and Michael Savage will not be filling the gap.

    But, and here is the big but–Google can’t “save” journalism unless it makes a deal with a bunch of papers to basically rebuild their websites as (at a minimum) social networks that track very granular user and usage data. Without that, Facebook dominates.

    That is the big game ahead: who will conrol online identity? How will it support commercial markets? How will those markets support and define “the public sphere?”

  • 3. Elliot  |  March 5th, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Great comments, guys.

    Two things:

    1.) Agreed, Buzz. My suspicion is the only physical papers that survive will be ones like the Onion and Shepherd Express that are freely distributed.

    2.) I think that’s the longest comment we’ve ever seen here, Dan! Great thoughts. You’ll note that I never said Google is gonna save newspapers (or other media as currently configured), but what you said is absolutely true: Google has a vested interested in the survival of relevant AND authoritative information. I’m sure there are already people there who have that figured out.

  • 4. Dan  |  March 6th, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    ShepEx isnt freely distributed. I’m sure they throw a few bones to the poor souls that do it. Another thing to think about there, seriously, is what does it mean when only prostitution-supported print publication is left?

    A major public issue in the transaction that happens between publishers and advertisers is, which whores (male enhacement drugs and other snakeoil on to Glenda Gazongas, adult entertainer) will we take money from, and where will we put them? because that ends up being the context for public discourse, and the context affects the discourse a lot. Facebook ads seem to be pushing some conventional boundaries for “respectable” media.

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Being in a wheelchair gives you a unique perspective on the world. This blog features many of my views on politics, art, science, and entertainment. My name is Elliot Stearns. More...

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