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Localization, Dow Jones and The Human Network

July 18, 2007 - 4 Comments

With this internet thing seemingly around to stay, a lot of people are struggling with the business model for newspapers and magazines. The potential sale of Dow Jones, as well as RIF’s at our local San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News have highlighted this for me of late. Some blame Google Ads or Craig Newmark for the decline in newspaper revenue. Others say that the news business model is flawed and that printing presses are a thing of the past and that there is no business sense in giving away content for free.On their home page, Wall Street Journal* (Dow Jones newspaper) gives you the gist of the news, but you have to pay to get the full story. Back in May, Walter E. Hussman, Jr., the publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, bemoaned the business model of giving away content for free. His op-ed (in the you-have-to-pay-to-read Wall Street Journal, of course) was entitled “How to Sink a Newspaper” and his lead paragraph states, “One has to wonder how many of the newspaper industry’s current problems are self-inflicted. Take free news. News has become ubiquitous, free, and as a result, a commodity. Anytime you are trying to sell something that becomes a commodity, you have lost much of the value in providing that product or service.”Newsgathering is expensive and you don’t have to poll any newsroom in the world to know that what is being asked of journalists is changing. They have to blog, they have to appear on camera, they have to do podcasts, they have to take their own pictures for their stories. They are becoming multimedia engineers as well as journalists. Some of this was recently discussed at Cisco’s New Media Summit. (Note: a free conference.)In a word, the media landscape is changing. The ability of the Internet (and blogs) to personalize the information you want to get is making it tough for an analog business (newspapers and magazines, see: Business 2.0) to attract the ad dollars when the eyeballs are increasingly turning digital. Wired magazine recently allowed subscribers to be on the cover of their magazine (see picture below)…which, I would argue is one step better than putting a mirror on the magazine and calling “You” the person of the year. Wired argues that localization of the web, through google maps and other mashupable (is that a word?) sites, is allowing individuals to create their own personalized web experience…or share it if they like. At this point, I should plug my gradeschool buddy Andy’s company, Nearby Networks, which mashes up Google Maps, Craigslist, Amazon, Ebay and other sites in order for you to find goods and services or auctions near where you are. (If I’m getting that wrong, I’m sure Andy will comment on this entry.) This could easily be done by local news and local targeted ads could be attached to those looking for local news. Far smarter people than I are already working on this business model…and others.Part of the answer and my larger Cisco plug is that people now contribute content for free to the network…or human network, if you prefer. You may have heard of Yahoo and Reuters efforts here and more seem to be catching on. To be sure, professional journalism needs to continue and flourish and we, as a society, should support it with our pocketbooks because an independent press is vital to our checks and balances system as well as our speaking-truth-to-power system (see; Dowd, Maureen.)The answer to how news continues and flourishes in the future hasn’t yet been figured out, but as Mr. Hussman points out in his commentary, “The newspaper industry wonders why it is losing young readers. Those readers might be young, but many of them are smart, not to mention computer-savvy. Why would they buy a newspaper when they can get the same information online for free?” Please note that we have no current plans to charge for the content on this blog. : )(Please also note that I am a paid subsciber to online Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Financial Times and a few other vertical publications, so I’m trying to do my part. The Washington Post, San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Chronicle are free. And, I’ll admit I have a problem, but at home we subscribe to Fortune, BusinessWeek, New Yorker, Sports Illustrated, Vanity Fair, Portfolio, New York, Wired and The Week. And, yes, we recycle.)*If the Dow Jones sale does go through to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, it will be interesting to see if some of the MySpace (NewsCorp Company) functionality is brought to Dow Jones and the WSJ.Recent cover of Wired Magazine(Yes, I’m getting a lot of play out of this picture.)JJE Wired July 2007.jpg

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  1. I think one of the greatest opportunities of the Internet is for the people to wrest control of the rusted"" sources of information from these media megacorporations... I hope they all go out of business, their market stolen by bloggers and news agreggators."

  2. What News? I haven't seen any News being reported in over 5 years. Its biased rhetoric, and little more. But anyone can play this game of delivering biased rhetoric. I'm quite good at it myself. Let me know when they decide to turn back on the free flow of info, until then us bloggers have the upper hand for lack of executive censorship.Check this out: want to talk about the News? Lets talk about the facts! Advertisements don't sell papers. And this small glimpse at Keith Olberman is only touching the surface. This country stands for Freedom and Justice, and they're not just words. Printing White House propaganda instead of the facts is what got us into this mess. Don't you think its about time we understand this is not a game?"