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How Bloggers Will Save Journalism

The Associated Blogosphere evolves a little more

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After declaring (again) the death (or at least the dying) of print, bloggers and academics have clothed their straw man with proposals that include even government subsidies. It’s not just print that’s in peril, but real, investigative, long-form journalism. But print’s not dead yet, neither is the argument, and bloggers might just lead the resuscitation efforts for journalism itself.

How Bloggers Will Save Journalism

The print-is-dead argument is a bit of a straw man because the scarecrow is still awaiting the (tech) wizard to give it life. Fact is, people are still buying newspapers. Fact is, they’re still making money, especially small local papers, even if it’s less money as the market changes. That means layoffs, and it means some publications with too much overhead shut down.

But dead implies extinction, and I think it might be better to look at it through an evolutionary lens. That is, print must evolve, as journalism must.

A gadget like Amazon’s Kindle (once streamlined and less expensive – compare 50 cents to $300) has the potential to transform the way people access the written word. It is conceivable, some time in the distant future, that the newspaper box is replaced with a downloading station near the parking meter – the special parking meter designed not only to take payment via mobile device, but to charge for the space above in addition to the right and left. Talk about double parking. 

But that hasn’t happened yet, and it will take a while if it ever does.      

Though small town newspapers beg to differ about the death of print media, as do collectors of worldwide subscription data who report record numbers, we saw a couple of print casualties in 2007.

But just like in any business, the inability to adapt is often what drives the extinction of a species. In this case, market forces, environments, and technologies are changing much more rapidly than society’s habits, or even wants.

There are still romantics out there, even in this generation. People still like their morning newspaper with their coffee; they like to fold up a paper and tuck it under their arm; they still like the smell of books and the look of them on their bookshelves.

At some point, I imagine, there will be new-wave romantics who would rather irradiate themselves with technology than cut down trees to support an old-world way of doing things. Until then, there is market evolution.

The threats to print and long-form journalism are these: market saturation, which dilutes not just audiences, but advertisers; high overhead; craigslist; local search; babies being born right now.

The question, then, is about how to adapt. Some are cutting staff and other costs. Some are closing their print face and going online exclusively. Some are using their online income to supplement their print side. Some are cutting just how investigative they’re going to get about news. Some are selling out to conglomerates who are better at adapting, have the resources to adapt, and who have lessened the competition for ad sales by buying up the competition.

And that’s a whole mess of problems, especially for the purists – the high-minded academics suddenly very seriously considering government subsidies to save real journalism.   

But there’s something else going on that’s interesting, and may play a role in how the industry evolves. Like I said, the days of print (on paper) are likely numbered, even if the number of days is larger than Silicon Valley might expect. But for long-form journalism there is hope without a government bailout.

» Give us your comments.

What brings it to mind is a catty back-and-forth between three of the preeminent bloggers in the blogosphere: Mike Arrington, Robert Scoble, and Dave Winer. Last week, Arrington labeled Scoble a sellout for breaking down and accepting ads for his blog.

That’s some interesting needling when you consider Arrington "sold out" years ago by accepting advertising for his blog, TechCrunch. Winer, the purist, reportedly complained about that development, but more recently has lost interest in the franchise altogether.

The name-calling and backbiting are not what’s important here. What is important is why Scoble says he will accept advertising:
 

Because it will let me hire people to produce more content.

I watched how Mike Arrington turned his blog into something that now employs more than 10 people.

Journalism is under attack because the business models for journalism are disappearing.

Fast Company [Scoble's new employer] told me that they have a great business model that can support more journalism. The magazine’s advertising sales were up 40% last year. They are investing in journalism. In editing. In content.
 

And there it is, the heart of the evolution. Low overhead, readership, and space to sell are the buds of new life on the tree of journalism. The beauty of online writers is that they don’t have to be in-house. They don’t have to cost the publisher money in travel fees, if the publisher has successfully employed bloggers (okay, you might call them reporters, now) around the world, right near the action.

Blognation didn’t fail because it was a bad idea. It failed because the founder served up his network of Associated Bloggers a big ol’ bucket of fail via dishonesty and inability to secure funding.

What Sam Sethi flubbed (miserably flubbed), the Arringtons and the Scobles of the world (perhaps with a little more vision and ambition, says Winer anyway) will make work, this century’s Pulitzers and Hearsts.

And not to pat myself on the back or anything, I did sort of mention the seeds of the Associated Blogosphere back in 2006. Enjoy the rest of spring as the seeds bud, without government intervention, without having to proclaim the death of anything, especially not, if done right, long-form journalism.

» Comment.

How Bloggers Will Save Journalism
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  • http://dickwilson.biz Guest

    I have enjoyed the ritual of my morning coffee, newspaper, and after breakfast smoke for years. It took me a while to warm up to the idea of electronic books (ebooks). But when I started to enjoy a new product called eBook Browser that actually made reading ebooks and on line articles (like this one) fun… and taught me to truly multi-task… Now I am always doing several things at the same time. Including enjoying my morning coffee without having to shuffle the pages of that newspaper or wonder what to do with it when I am done with it. Now if I can just get over the habit of the smokes. It is hard to change after 35 years of doing it.

  • http://www.mac2work.com Macouno

    Newspapers will not die, merely scale down. Investigative journalism, lunches with politicians, press galleries at major sports, staff, legal departments, investments, influence all preserve the newspaper from a so "called" death. Let all week-end bloggers beware, your sheer number and the ease of publishing anything, anywhere makes your content diluted, accessible and common.

    Journalism is a trade. Newspapers are its expression.

    Owning PowerPoint does not make you a great presenter nor a graphic artist. Using WordPress or Blogger does not guarantee flocks will read your content. Yes there are a few star bloggers out there. Will they kill all newspapers? Negative, not a chance. Dream on.

    There’s an environmental cost to all these turned on computers allowing any reader for eyeballing a given blog. That cost is actually superior in energy to recycling paper and cutting down trees from an environmental perspective. At least you can use your read newspaper to start a fire and warm yourself. Can’t say that much about a blog.

  • http://www.peakbusinessequipment.com Greg Polk

    I pay for the content newspapers and magazines provide.  The current method of printing on paper (made from trees) and physically delivering the content is nearing the end of it’s long life. What will take it’s place is yet to be seen, but the content still has value to me.

    I think we’re all waiting for something we can carry around to read all of the content/subscriptions we have now.  It must be inexpensive and easily download the information we crave.  It shouldn’t break if we drop it a few times or spill a drink on the screen either and if all else fails, then I should be able to get another "reader" at Walmart for $20.00.  (On sale for $14.99 during the holiday season)

    I’d gladly give up the traditional methods as long as I can carry it around just like I would any newspaper or magazine.  Newspapers might be changing and/or getting smaller, but it doesn’t seem likely they simply die and go away for ever.  (Remember the radio when television was introduced?)

     

     

  • http://www.ivolution-seo.com/ Ivolution SEO

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m a firm believer that newspapers and print will always be around and will always be a major force in the ad industry.

    Reason:

    If you look at developing countries where the internet and online population is way below world standards and will most likely take another 20 years to cathcup to the likes of America (if ever) their first point of contact for advertisers would be (tv, newspapers and magazines).

    Reason 2:

    When people get older and most us do :) it’s a known fact that computers start becoming, painful, to much time. Older people would much rather read their newspapers in their little rocling chair, or read their favourite magazines…

    Just a thought

    Developing Country SEO

  • http://greenvalleyweb.com Sharon Lane

    If we are going to depend upon bloggers for our News, we are in big trouble.  Through out this primary season, I have been visiting blogs to see what is happening.  I see a lot of inflammatory comments, outrageous emotions, extreme slanting of facts, and out and out lies. 

    It is incredible.  Anyone can say anything.  And, what is worse is that later someone links to their blogs and says "here is the data".  I spent days on one political blog pointing out why that data is untrue and giving them the facts and links to credible government websites with that data.

    Print journalism requires that the reporter check their information and source.  Blogging does not!

    Take Care,  Sharon

  • http://www.ryze.com/go/VerbatimEB Guest

    Hello.

    I would like to point out that the article is addressing two things that are quite seperate issues.  Journalism and published books.  And personally? I don’t see an end to either.

    Journalistic integrity went out the window with the advent of cable news. Computers and blogs had nothing to do with that. The jounalists did that to themselves.  I read three newspapers, not religiously but steadily.  I would much rather read an article by someone that is in print (on paper) who has done their homework than someone who pretends to know something on a subject that is quite frankly outside their realm of true understanding.  About 65% of people plugging out blog entries are anonymous and spew out trash into the stratosphere.  Finding the good information online gets harder and harder because of this issue.

    The idea that books would go away is absurd.  Anyone who knows; knows you must have a hard copy backup of everything you write or anything you truly want to keep. 

    Yes, I am older; yes, I like the smell and handling of books and newpapers.  If the internet or parts thereof go down, I will have plenty of reading material that I carry to the comfy couch and relax with.

    Can you imagine a parent reading from a cell phone or laptop to their toddler?  I just don’t see it.  The sense of feel and touch is important to human beans (not a typo) and a keyboard simply does not feel all that satisfying on many days; in many places; and sometimes even in bed.  Ask yourself this question – What would you rather lay your hands on?

    Blessings and peace.

    Eileen (aka VerbatimEB and aka Verb)

    • http://www.golfakademie-gmbh.de Bob

      I sorry but over here in Germany the print media is already suffering. Really there are 2 national papers and the circulation has fallen dramatically. No I dont beleive Journalism will die however I do beleive that the print media will. News will still be professionally written by paid staff however the internet ,will be how its circulated. Also I beleive that television will also be replaced by internet television with smart interactive programmes. Yes the world is changing especially here in Germany

  • Buffalo Man

    Ever since our beginnings ordinary people, who make up the majority of newspaper subscribers, have taken it for granted that a story appearing in the paper was written impartially and without bias.

    "Just the facts, please". Of course, this has almost never been the case. If you look at news stories in newspapers from a hundred years ago you will find the stories slanted to reflect how the paper’s editors are trying to push the public’s opinion through the doorway of their own agenda or favorites.

    Years ago, this was fairly easy to do as the public usually had only one source for news. It was the newspaper. Later, we found quickly that Radio and TV could not really be counted on to deliver the details you needed to actually understand an event, since all the radio and tv types did was to read the headlines. Funny how little has changed.

    And then an odd thing happened. News started to become available from sources other than papers, radio and tv. The internet has bloomed. Now that internet news sites, blogs and whatever else are all jockeying for our attention, people are jumping on this as the  obvious answer to the decline of newspapers. Sorry, folks, but that ain’t it!

    It’s the content, stupid! When newspapers stop "reporting" the news through biased eyes then people will respect them once again and will subscribe to them. Do newspaper bosses really believe the public doesn’t know about their news slants? That we don’t know about their instructions to writers about how to configure stories regarding people and events the paper doesn’t support?

    Here’s a quick message for newspapers. Bring back true impartial reporting and the American people will flock to your side. Because they trust you.

     

  • Guest

     I realize it seems impossible to consider this; but it is a real possiblity. In a few years the whole arguement will not matter.  If China carries through on their threats. They will hit the USA with an impulse bomb one or two; and all the computers will be trash. Solid lifeless junk.

    I watched this short news story on televison. And this young man somewhere in his early thirties planning on this. He was an entrenpenuer waiting for this to happen. He wanted to cash in on starting up the telephone system and rebuilding the internet. And  keep control of it. Just makes me wonder if I should bother buying a new computer at all.

    Yeah, I know it sounds off the wall. There are probably alot of people that would have a fit and say that it won’t happen. But I guess in time we will find out.

  • http://brandnameshoppingmall.com RustyRose

    I think this article was written for people living in the year 2100.  Newspapers are dependable, biased or not.  Bloggers are not.  Now I understand there’s a big sale at Macy’s.  Give me my newspaper so I can read about the sales.  Then I can go online to brandnameshoppingmall.com and find the stores that were having all the sales as advertised in the newspaper.

     

  • http://www.search-optimization.com Gerry Grant – Search-Optimization.com

    I had a client, the Orange County Register, that was a great example of a local newspaper being a dinosaur. They hired my company. Search-Optimization.com, to help them with being able to deliver more traffic to their site. They were doing everything to keep the search engines out. The Orange County Register adopted my suggestions and went on from there to become an example of how a newspaper is in the business of delivering news. They now have blogs, video, comment sections and deliver the news as soon as it breaks. They even have a morning news show on cable TV that uses the reporters to bring local information to the public.

    The get it.
     

  • Karen

    All news, like politics, is local. I purchased a weekly newspaper (emphasis on the word "news") in 1977. At that time it was 150+ years old. It survived the double-digit inflation of the late seventies (barely) and I sold it to a man who developed a conglomerate of small newspapers.

    What he managed to do was create a small empire without destroying the integrity of the original products. He managed to keep the identity of each and incorporate a regional flavor as well.

    The bloggers and the internet have failed miserably with local markets and they will continue to do so as long as they believe they have the entire world just salivating for their next words.

    Yes, people want the world news. They want the national news. They want the state news. But the void is in local news. And there, newspapers have the whole market to themselves.

    Additionally, bloggers spout opinions mainly and we all know what opinions are like. AND everybody has one. Who cares about theirs?

  • Dulles

    Not only are newspapers dying, but the marketing whores who promote and feed off them are also. Let’s face it, marketing is a sickening profession responsible for TV brainwashing commercials and subliminal advertising. These same people who sell gigantic SUVs, Chinese toys, and other garbage are now turning to the internet. Every three months they come up with new buzz-words: "Web 2.0", "Facebook", "Social Networking", "Social Media", etc. Of course, smart people know it’s the same old song and dance, created by marketing whores.

  • http://www.topglobes.com Doug

    The good of blogs is that they can, and have, helped keep traditional media in check.  They also provide is with information and news that we would otherwise be completely ignorant of because the main stream media either do not want to report on it, or they miscalculate the demand for it.

    The bad thing about blogs right now is that they are almost entirely editorialist in nature.  What I mean by that is that they are rarely just news and almost always written as opinion with the goal of persuasion.  The result of this is that people tend to gravitate towards the blogs that support their pre-existing opinions.  In other words, the blogs begin to preach to their own choir, their readers forming a sort-of "support group" of like-minded individuals.  This, in my opinion, has been one of the primary causes of political divisiveness in the United States.

    when it comes to actual news it seems that the bloggers still rely on traditional journalism as their source.  They then analyze that news and create their editorial opinion-based content.  The risk in people relying entirely on blogs for "information" is that they are not often getting actual information, but instead someone else’s opinion.  The information that the opinion is formed around is still generated by traditional news outlets.

    There are of course exceptions to this.  Some of the Iraqi bloggers, for example, report the "news" of what they observe–things that are never reported by traditional outlets.  But, they will infuse their observations with their opinions within the same context, removing the traditional seperation of news and editorial.

  • Guest

    Journalism has been dead for years.

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