over 10 years on 2008-06-01


i have been trying to articulate my perspective on the forth estate for a very long time - in a conversation a few hours ago it finally struck me... i will give the full explanation later, but here is the headline -- the value of actual information is fundamentally inversely related to how scarce it is, but the entertainment value of 'media' has little to nothing to do with scarcity.  because the very wide distribution of information ultimately destroys its value, in a world with zero distribution costs, selling access to good information doesn't scale very well.  you might have a single brilliant source, reporter, or thought leader generating insight for you - but they fundamentally don't scale.  entertainment, on the other hand, scales like crazy. 

most 'media' companies and news organizations need return on scale to justify their existence.  they used to have that in the form of distribution coupled with information, but as distribution cost have tended towards zero they have needed to find a new trick.  the answer is to become more and more like entertainment, and less and less like information.  existing in a pure battle to scale pageviews and advertising the truth of reporting and information has become almost irrelevant and the entertainment value of information is the holy grail.

so, ultimately, the vast majority of 'news' organizations are going to just look like an alternative form of entertainment media.  nothing more.  everyone will be simply trying to shout louder than the person next to them regardless of whether what they are shouting means anything.

where will real information come from?  subscriptions.  specific writers, and a limited set of high road publications, will end up moving back to a very very simple equation which goes a little something like this "i have valuable information, pay me for access to it.  if i give you bad information, stop paying me"

i am already personally ditching all corporate news organization blogs and going right to the professors (nick carr, greg mankiw, etc.) that are blogging for no immediate economic gain...  and i am willing to pay.  but the second either of those guys goes for a mass advertising driven audience i am out, because the business model will fundamentally change their economic incentives and force their content downhill...  so, mr. murdoch, i am not sure if you are playing a 10 year game or a 50 year game - but if it is the later think about weening the journal off of add dollars - not off of subscriptions. --- more later, i am just warming up on this topic.

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