Thursday, 30 October 2008

The Future of "Old Media," Google and Who's Going to Pay for Good Information

Yesterday The New York Times was full of stories about electronic rights and the demise of print journalism. First there is the landmark agreement between Google, the American Association of Publishers and the Authors’ Guild. Mechanisms will be set up so that writers, publishers and Google will share in revenue from the massive scanning project Google began several years ago: in all the agreement is for $125 million but details are not immediately available. At the same time The Christian Science Monitor announced that it is eliminating its daily print edition, and David Carr reflected on the demise of “old media.”

A good part of Carr’s musings were devoted to listing cuts to newspaper staffs around the country: The Los Angeles Times has only one movie reviewer left on staff, for example. The big problem, he says, is that advertising revenue for print media is falling, while revenue from on-line editions of the same publication don’t fill the gap so newspaper management cuts everywhere including the newsrooms.

There has to be a way out, though. Production costs for “new media” journalism must be less than for old—printing and delivering newspapers and magazines is very expensive, but even sophisticated web systems are cheap in comparison. The trick is in finding the model which will pay for the writers and researchers necessary for good, in-depth journalism which is the strong suit of newspapers and magazines.

If not, we’re all in trouble. Carr noted in his piece that even Eric Schmidt, the chief executive of Google is concerned. He told a recent American Magazine Conference, that if "the great brands of journalism — the trusted news sources readers have relied on — were to vanish, then the Web itself would quickly become a “cesspool” of useless information. "

Amen. A case in point: according to Alec Castonguay of Le Devoir, right wing bloggers will be invited to the Conservatives' convention in Winnipeg week after next with the same status as newspaper, radio and television journalists.


Dougist said...

I don't think that traditional old industry print brands are the answer. I do think that there is a brand answer and wrote about it here....

Old media brands are the answer to the “cesspool”? Naw…

Looking to the mainstream media brands as a model of fair and accurate reporting is like looking for a pacifist at a prizefight.


Mary Soderstrom said...

If we're talking commercial television, you may have a point. Many years ago when I was a reporter on a suburban daily in the San Francisco area I would get furious when I researched a story carefully, went to some event or caught up with some newsmaker and asked my pertinent questions, and then saw the TV reporter who patently knew nothing about the story. Without exception, the reporter asked my best question on camera, and then whizzed away.

That tendency--to hit the high points only and not do any digging--has gotten worse. You see it on all the major networks and much of the blogosphere. What's needed is support for the considered and thoughtful journalism and you're not going to get it from televison or from amateurs.