Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Journalism, as seen from the inside

DeLong has hoisted an anonymous comment from a practicing journalist to the front page: The Future of Journalism. This is why I like the practice of allowing anonymity in moderated comments -- it's a very well written, frank-sounding and educational comment. It's presumably common wisdom among practicing journalists, but probably little understood outside of the profession.

It does not surprise me that there is no significant correlation between the "excellence" of a newspaper and its economic success. I think the relationship of "excellence" and economic success is surprisingly elastic, unless one subscribes to the mindless tautology of defining "excellence" as "profitable".

I think this comment is debatable though:
... Had newspapers been a little smarter, they would have realized about 1993 or so that it made no sense to put news on the Internet for free and charge exhorbitant prices for their archives; the best model would be to give away the stale stuff for free -- to give people an idea of what they missed -- and charge for what's freshest.
I would not be surprised to learn that archives are a weak source of revenue, but i don't think making them free would make them more appreciated. In the era of blogs the key concepts tend to be captured in commentary anyway. So the question of archives isn't relevant.

So really the only question is whether one can make money, in addition to advertising revenue, by charging for fresh material. I suspect the answer, outside of specialized domains, will be no. Which means there will only be a handful of newspapers left in America when this transition runs its course ...

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