Wednesday, 25 November 2009

How truly bad (some) newspaper editors are at making money (or how this is the century of the amateur communicator)

A brilliant exposition of how bad some newspaper publishers are at making money out of all that free traffic Google and company provide them with. If you still believe that the British Digital Economy bill is worth the e-paper it's burned into, please read this article first. The future is not Murdochian, not if the future is to include any of the oldco business models. For Murdoch and Mandelson's way will probably - quite contradictorily - end up achieving the final destruction of the old institutional newspaper publishing models: quite the opposite of what they were actually aiming for.

It may, in fact, end up leading to greater opportunities for end-user/producers as they happily allow search engines to find them.

In the Internet, visibility is everything. Web domains mean little these days. Search engines are how we find things. Search engines are the equivalent of the environmental knowledge we used to keep in our heads when our environment was our town. Now our environment is the planet, there is absolutely no way we will be able to do without search engines.

Microsoft's Bing is sizing up to be the Google for the oldco content providers and their 20th century publishing models. Bing believes in walls, in payments upfront, in monetising above all, in old-fashioned unidirectional relationships between passive consumers and directing producers. Bing and all those intellectual property merchants who will follow Murdoch's lead make up the last desperate throw of the dice of the oldco cash-cow-owning content providers who've suddenly discovered their cash cows aren't quite so attractive as they used to be. It's not piracy that - long-term - is going to do them in. It's simple boredom from consumers who are no longer captive. Organisations who collaboratively created quite magnificently in the 20th century are being outdone by millions of telephone texts, billions of downloads of home-made videos on YouTube, trillions of words published on Twitter, Facebook and blogs and an infinite number of social and personal exchanges between ordinary people who far prefer to spend their free time these days communicating with other ordinary people.

This is the century of amateur communicators. Partly because education has meant we're not so amateur any more. But mainly because - suddenly, for the price of a broadband connection - very simply we can. That's our essence as human beings. We are innate communicators. That's what we do. And we are beginning to get the hang of doing it without filters or intermediaries. We're beginning to want more of each other - and less of the professionals who once made a living out of publishing.

We're all now editors, authors, publishers and journalists. Doesn't mean we're good at it. Just means we're good enough.


  1. Very interesting post. I'm old and old school in my thinking about news reporting. I'm busy worrying about Murdoch owning all the news outlets here in the USA. We used to have antitrust laws, but like banking regulations they seen to have evaporated during the past 8 to 10 years. It seems to me that everything Murdoch gets his hands on grows sleazy and right wing very fast, so his increasing grasping of more and more news media seems very dire indeed.

  2. Yes. I think there was a time when he let things be a little more as long as his purchases made money - but he's settled in to the role of crusading media mogul quite happily now. I am reminded more and more of Citizen Kane's fruitless search for meaning. The only thing that seems to motivate Murdoch any more is money and the corresponding impulse to deconstruct societies so that he can make more of it. Both sad and bad for the rest of us.