Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Please, answer me this newspaper/media question

I read a lot about newspapers and the business of newspapers, but I hardly blog about it. Son of Ronald Roland reminded me that I had a thought to ask of people that read this particular blog.

Ok, recently we've seen an exodus of the "adult in the room" of the Washington press corp:

Dave Ammons and John Hughes to the Secretary of State's office.

Robert Mak for City of Seattle.

David Seago for retirement.

David Postman to Vulcan.

Ralph Thomas to Katz Communications Group.

Given that Ives Galarcep, a ten year veteran reporter from a mid-sized east coast newspaper, can make the successful transition from his print job to a self-sustaining niche blog.

Also, given that Crosscut has a place in Seattle media world.

Ok, so here's the question to answer:

Do you think after Postman, Ammons, Hughes, Thomas and Seago left their print jobs, and instead of going into the government and PR worlds, they started a group blog, that it would work out for them?

My answer in the comments.


Emmett said...

I'd say yes.

The combined online name recognition these folks would bring, would at least translate into a self sustaining politics/society blog. It would serve a specific niche, much like the current "Postman on Politics" blog does, but with broader reach.

Aside from the Washington Law and Politics magazine (not an exact match) this is a slightly underserved niche.

For Postman and Thomas, it probably wouldn't be as lucrative, but it would probably compare to government work pay (except for Mak).

Kari Chisholm said...

Depends on what you mean by "work out".... Sure, they'd build a healthy audience.

But would it make enough money to pay five people a fulltime salary?

Not a chance.

(At least, not on advertising revenue. If they had a millionaire sugardaddy, maybe.)

Mark Derricott said...

I tend to agree with kari--They would develop a following.

I am not so sure it would be from their name recognition alone simply because I imagine that their audience is a bit older and probably not as tuned into the blogging aspect of media.

I am speculating here, operating with zero information, but it seems to me that the reason for their directional shift is probably that they see little future in their profession, and it must be difficult to deal with. In short, I doubt their blogs took off much.

I would imagine their access to the big names would be the draw to an entirely new audience that would appreciate their personality and candor (and access). In their own blog, they would have much greater freedom to write what they want without worrying about which sponsor they would upset.

For instance, look at Goeff Baker, the M's blogger for the Times. He's entertaining, but he knows which topics to avoid. If you've read his blog, you know what I am talking about.

So like Kari says, audience, yes. However, I think, being old hands, they would have a hard time coming up with a business model that would allow them the financial comfort they are probably accustomed to. So they'd need plenty of start up capital.

I am sorry for the rant. This is such an interesting topic with so many possibilities. I see the decline of print media as potentially one of the democratizing events that this country has undergone at least in the last 50 years.

Anonymous said...

Particle Man said...
I don't know emmett. But when the Olympian and the Tacoma Trib close this fall and all we have in print is some South Sound edition of the PI, all we will have is what the internet. Candidates full of BS will rule the day till this all sorts out.

Ken Camp said...

Content wise it would work out. The combined resources of those journalists, with their rolodexes of sources willing to talk would provide a content-rich news environment online.

Would it be a money maker? I agree with Kari's points.

But I have to give credit to Postman because I thought he had a quality blog, and the fact that he interacted with the local netroots on both the left and the right gave him some credibility as a blogger. Postman wasn't just some fishwrap hack trying to be a blogger, he was a blogger. And that's not to say that I always agreed with him or even liked what he had to say.

Ken Camp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

If health care were free (or just about) then I'd say the answer to your question is "yes, they would make it."

Present day USofA? No. There are too many ancillary costs for it to work out as a full time gig for all of them.

Then again, I have no idea what the thresholds are...what kind of audience is required to sustain one person? Two? Ten?

Anonymous said...

No. Unfortunately.

It's an excellent question which leads of course to the whole issue of a broken economic model for media, and not just newspapers. It is simply incredible that a cornerstone of American democracy, THE cornerstone in fact, is contracting faster than the cosmic suck of a collapsed star. And it's ironic that this is due in large part to the greatest democratic innovation in the last four American centuries.

So what is the economic model for a successful blogger or virtual media outlet? Where does the money come from? Advertisers? That doesn't work, and it's not enough. So ...?

Okay, so if the future is virtual compendiums of "freelancers" rather than a central brick and mortar corporate model, the same economic questions still apply. It's interesting to see recent efforts around the country, especially in the Bay area, to appeal to the news consumer directly to fund stories/coverage but initial indications are not good.

Figure this out and you will be the next google. The fact that the greatest minds have yet to come up with anything is just proof that the whole worldwide system of information collection and dissemination is collapsing and the situation is still too fluid for anything to yet shake out. The ball is in play, tumbling, spinning, skipping down the field from one muddy desperate hand to the next in one long dance of successive fumbles.

The press is dead, long live ... what?