Sunday, January 11, 2009

Jim Jeykll, who are you? Why don't you have a blog that I can read?

The last few days "Jim Jekyll" has been dropping down the wisdom in the comment threads here, picking apart some of my new media posts with a rapier-mind.

For some reason, I typically know 90 percent of the people who comment on my blog. Well, "for some reason" typically is I write posts for certain people and beg them to comment, but Jekyll's comments have come totally out of the blue, and for an unsolicited commenter, he's freaking good.

Here's his latest on my favorite new topic, the now dead Sitting Duck:

Yeah, it's too bad the Sitting Duck was so poorly executed and generally sophomoric, although that can be done well too, except it wasn't. It seemed like it could have been a good publication if it really tried.

But hey, why does it have to be The Olympian, or any other newspaper for that matter, that brings these issues to the forefront. Newspapers are dying, so wtf now?
And, a few minutes later, he reposts:

And to follow up on that thought ...

Is an alternative publication really even viable in the Olympia market? Seriously. I'm not questioning the need for one but the print model takes loads of cash and a few good martyrs. That was in better days. Now, it's just not viable. The advertising market was shifting away from print long before the current economic downturn and the cash cow of classifieds has long since disappeared since Craig's List.

So everyone can be a publisher now with the internet but it takes a certain level of professionalism to do it well and who is going to spend the horrendous amounts of time to do good investigative pieces for FREE? Google's CEO was just bemoaning this ironically enough but also saying they won't try to prop up the dying print industry, even though they could, because the industry is no longer economically viable. Everybody wants the news, everybody wants an alternative voice but no one wants to pay for it due, in large part, to Google.

Seriously, what is the answer?
I'm not sure what the answer is, but I'm sure I'm going to be thinking about it more now.

Here's the rest of Jim's recent comments:

Jim on New media outcroppings
Jim on the shrinking capitol press corp

He's obviously someone familiar with being a reporter or editor, maybe one of the dozens of recently unemployed newsroom people sadly let go in the last year. Either way, he's a sharp mind, and I wouldn't mind it much if he set up shop and start spewing his own blog. Though, I have a feeling that he wouldn't like having to do it for free.

Which does sort of get to Jim's central question, how we move past the current model of journalism and into what we'll have next. I'm thinking it revolves around two things: freedom of association (that bastard step child of political freedoms) and the good ol'Pioneer and Democrat.

Anyone catch my drift?

4 comments:

Jim Jekyll said...

Ha! Too funny. It's a mystery although you could figure it out Emmett. You'd have to go back more than a few years. Don't out me dude ;-))

I get what you're saying, and I've often thought about the possibility of virtual newsrooms with collectives of freelancers. This could be done easily now, and done well, with multimedia content, ala mediastorm, wrapped together with news, ala The Economist, and commentary. Lord knows it would be easy to put together a crack team of editors, reporters, photographers, videographers, code warriors and the like, especially given the state of brick and mortar media and the incredible talent leaving to become corporate or government schills, not that's there is anything wrong with that, everybody has a right to eat and support their family, except that it's just an incredible waste of talent. Did I mention copy editors?

So the possibility of putting together a team of professionals with gold star bankable cred is never better. That's the easy part.

The bitch is in the business model.

Media now is both imploding, i.e. traditional, and exploding, if you use a loose definition of media, with blogs and the like. But again, arm chair warriors will research the shit out of proving someone wrong and pointing the finger (you know which one) at existing content generators. That's pretty easy really, but developing new, unique stories out of thin air is very difficult and on a whole other level.

Okay, say you can do this, that you put together the crack team, generate unbelievably good mixed content, objective or otherwise (see The Economist above), and market the hell out of it. Say even that you mix this with good social networking and you got trackbacks from Beijing to Des Moines, how are you going to pay for it? Right, you're overhead is going to be much, much lower in many ways, especially without a print edition, but still. The PI was practically a virtual newspaper with most of its business functions under the Times within the JOA and they still couldn't make it, and now they have virtually nothing to sell other than their subscriptions and talent pool. And as always, salaries and wages are the big costs. They should be.

With advertising placement fractured all over the place, and with immediate feedback on true "readership," how can any one outlet, even a collective, even a big collective, generate enough income to thrive.

The answer may be Google. Now that I think about it, that is perhaps the only answer under the current market structure. Contract providers, either individually or collectively, creating new, unique content for Google who in turn uses this as the platform for pennies per hit ads.

Of course, this idea plays right back into the broken, century-old media business model of ad revenue paying the bills. With the culture of expected free content, is there any other way?

As to why I don't have a blog, it's just so much easier to riff off your existing content Emmett than create new content of my own. ;-)

And you're right, I want a paycheck dude.

Jim

Jim Jekyll said...

Hmmm, after reading this spelling out the doom and gloom for media, including potential collapse of McClatchy (owner of The Olympian, The News Tribune, The Bellingham Herald, and the Tri-City Herald) and the third largest chain in the U.S., I really do fear for democracy as we know it in the U.S. There are no easy anwers and the vacuum will be epic.

Emmett said...

Jim, email me. I won't out you, I'm just seriously curious now.

Everyone that I worked with in newspapers I'm either still in contact with or is an unlikely suspect.

emmettoconnell at gmail dot com

Jim Jekyll said...

The future is soon ...

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200901/new-york-times

Jim