March 14, 2006
Feasting on thin gruel...
Me thinks WSJ doth protest too much with this piece on the Knight Ridder sale to McClatchy. This passage strikes me as a bit defensive, not to mention incomplete:
Gathering news, reporting stories and making editorial decisions about what is important and of interest to readers -- these are the core competencies of newspapers. And the Internet hasn't changed those jobs at their fundamental level. Both the skills required to do them well and the newspaper brands with reputations for integrity remain valuable in the information marketplace. The news aggregators, such as Google News, are just that -- collectors of other companies' news products. Without news outlets to generate the material that Google searches and collates, there is no Google News.
You could add on to the end of that first sentence "and millions of bloggers." Certainly in the tech segment there are loads of bloggers who get the story first and right before any newspaper runs a headline -- and this is happening increasingly in other segments too. (By the way, I wonder what percentage of newspaper "scoops" make their way to the reporters via a blog post...) I know I am an early adopter, but I get more of my "news" first via blogs. GoogleNews may aggregate only professional news sites, but new aggregators like Rojo and countless others are doing for blogs what Web 1.0 companies do for professional media.
Having ceded much of the opinion & analysis territory to the blogosphere (I still read the WSJ editorial page, but it is now one of many POVs I read), professional media organizations seem to be clinging to the idea that editing and reporting are resource intensive endeavors that will require larger organizations, not independent blogs. Sure, there is a role there, but I think this is feasting on thin gruel. In fact, reporting may be where professional media is most vulnerable. Reporting is easy if you know the facts - it's getting to the facts that's hard - and inevitably somewhere some blogger has discovered the facts of the story before anyone else. They simply have professional reporters hugely outnumbered.
WSJ has been a beacon for the notion that decentralized, emergent, self-organizing systems can produce better outcomes than centrally planned ones - they should be cheering this trend. I'm not saying "old media is dead" any more than this piece suggests "new media doesn't matter" but despite their acknowledgement of "creative destruction" I think the dislocation the newspaper industry has ahead of it is more significant than this column suggests.