Mobile and the news media’s imploding business model | Michael Wolff | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk
If the news business on the web is depressing, contributing to the existential angst that has gripped every established news organization, mobile turns the story apocalyptic: there is no foreseeable basis on which the news establishment can support itself. There is no way even a stripped-down, aggregation-based, unpaid citizen-journalist staffed newsroom can support itself in a mobile world.
Hence the new consensus about the pay wall – on the web, but even more optimistically on anything handheld. In a very short time, the industry consensus has moved from “it will never work” to “it’s inevitable”. It doesn’t seem to matter that this has happened without any evidence that it can work, other than on the most incremental basis. It does seem to be, however, the only alternative – or roach-like adaptation, no matter how meager and clawing in the dirt – to ad-based oblivion for large news organizations. (And even so, they surely won’t be large anymore if they are to be supported on a paid-for basis.)
And then, there is the share-based news economy. In this new model, news is essentially voted for – that is, it achieves its views and its values by being passed along in the social quick-stream. This model, at a $0.25 CPM, depends on mass appreciation – on numbers so large that it makes television news look like a targeted audience. All of the sins of ratings-driven television news are, accordingly, algebraically magnified. Shared news is, more often than not, insipid happy news (qv Facebook).
Finally, there is “disintermediated” news. This model assumes that roaches, in the form of individual obsessives and low-paid scriveners (a monkey-with-a-typewriter model), continue to produce the ever-rising content pool, which is then parsed and selected, not by editors and reporters, but by your self-selected peer group – through tools supplied by easy-to-use mobile and web-based platforms (qv Twitter).
The bleak or non-existent future for news professionals in a mobile-dominated world is further compounded by our remoteness from, and antipathy to, the thing that has always fed us: advertising. The news business began and thrived on the basis of an historic, if anomalous partnership between the immediate and the commercial. Freedom of the press had as much to do with department stores as with the constitution.
We continue to need some genius – or greedy so-and-so – to figure out how to make a connection between news and moving the merchandise. Or we are lost.