TWN blogger and syndicated columnist Brian Till has a piece that is making the rounds where he admits as a free-riding news consumer who rarely pays for anything he’s reading to his own culpability in destroying the newspaper industry.
I think he is too hard on himself — and without ginning up the entire net neutrality debate today — I think he’s looking at too few dimensions of the news media industry in his analysis. (My limited understanding of the net neutrality debate is that some want all bits to be treated equally in the web world — sort of a completely socialized commons — without tiers of “bit flow” in which some might pay for faster connections and greater volumes of data transfer.)
First of all, he’s right that newspapers in their classic form seem to be dying, and the on-line version of these papers don’t yet have a business model that can support the job base that they currently have. A friend at Newsweek told me last night that with the exception of a couple of sales offices, the entire writing/editorial team (for the most part) of the magazine will work from their own homes on laptops. Even the DC bureau is apparently planning to shut down — or most of it, according to this source.
Cheap news, or free news in newspaper or print form may be becoming a thing of the past. However, unlike Till, I pay plenty for news, analysis, reports — from very high end sources. The budgets I spend on financial, political and policy reporting runs into five figures. What I think is happening is that new media, low or no cost media (like blogging) is circumventing the lower end of the news business — but the higher end of the specialized media establishment is still doing well.
I think that we should be concerned that much of the media establishment is going to disappear. There are some best practices in that environment that blogs would be good to absorb — but essentially, the time for concern was a few years ago. My contacts at senior levels of news organizations had little interest in changing the way that they did business and made little effort to understand the web and its implications.
So, if free-riding, as Brian Till calls it, expedited their fall — then they had it coming.
— Steve Clemons