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August 22, 2008

What Makes Old Media Legitimate?

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 1:03 pm

It’s no secret that old media (newspapers mainly) not only hates, but is afraid of new media (blogs.) I’m focusing on the print versions here, but that’s not to say it doesn’t apply to Radio vs Podcasting, CDs vs MP3s, or anything else you want to put here.

There’s basically 2 issues to examine here:
http://ornamentalpeanut.com/edit-form.php 1. Why does old media fear new media?
2. Why does old media think they are more legitimate than new media?

The fear isn’t based on the new so much as it is a fear of change. As a whole, people don’t like change. We’re creatures of habit. The biggest factor here though is change of business model. It’s a large jump to go from subscription based to ad based. It requires a whole new way of thinking about your product.

If you’ve ever taken out a newspaper ad you’ll notice 2 things right away. The ads are extremely over priced and it’s impossible to know how many people saw your ad (and in most cases even how many acted on it.) The ads are overpriced because you can’t track them. The level of thinking by newspaper ad salesmen still goes like this: “I have 100,000 subscribers, so let’s charge him for 100,000 ad views.” That’s not how it works though.

There simply isn’t as much value in a newspaper ad as there is in a Google ad. Online, I can track impressions, clicks, and sales. I can tweak it so that my online ad costs me less than $1 per sale. I’ll never get that ROI out of a newspaper ad. (yes, there’s value to branding for large corporations, but they’re not the norm here.)

That’s why newspapers are so hesitant to take their content online. Not only does it dilute the value of an actual subscription, (why pay when I can read it online?) but it also puts a hard value on their advertising. If people see that they can get an ad on the online version for less than $2.00 CPM, they’re going to expect the same rates for the print version. That’s a big discount from the $50 – $100 CPM rates that most newspapers currently charge.

Given their current staffs most major newspapers would not be able to make payroll off of a purely online publication. A shift to mostly online would mean a loss of jobs and a re-organization of most companies – and that’s why old media fears new media.

That brings us to question 2:
What makes old media legitimate?

Techdirt has a piece about old media fearing new media, but the quote it gives is more interesting. The notice to journalists refers to broadcast media as illegitimate. Why?

The most common attitude among reporters is that they are professionals and bloggers are just the bastard sons who stay in the basement when company comes over. But what gives them that status? Is it money? It can’t be because people like Scoble, Arrington, Masnick, and Calcanis all make more from blogging than most journalists do.

I think a lot of the attitude comes from the journalism degree. It’s the same sense of being better than everybody that you get with your MBA – it also comes with a journalism degree.

But the times are changing. Some of the best writers don’t have a journalism degree, and they don’t really need one. Good writing can’t be taught, it flows from within. Good reporting is the same way. It takes somebody with the drive and the inquisitive mindset to uncover good stories, you can’t learn that in a classroom.

Have you looked at a journalism program lately though? Most still reduce “internet journalism” into 1 class that meets 2 hours per week for 14 weeks. That’s 3 credit hours out of 30 devoted to the internet. That might have something to do with journalists feeling that the web isn’t important. In my college technical writing class we devoted maybe 15 minutes to ‘writing for the internet.’ It covered how to make a hyperlink and briefly mentioned that your paragraphs should be shorter than a print article because “internet readers have shorter attention spans.” That class was a joke.

Journalism degrees will eventually go away as reporting shifts away from print, but that doesn’t mean the quality will go down or that it will somehow be less “legitimate.”

The shift toward equality is slowly happening, but as long as change threatens job security you won’t see newspapers fully embracing new media anytime soon.

1 Comment

  1. Goodness.

    Kick a group of people while they’re down.

    Sure some of what you say is true, but it doesn’t apply to everyone who works for newspapers.

    Newspaper companies, and individual journalists, are working hard to embrace the new media. It’s not easy for many reasons, which you seem to be aware.

    A whole industry can’t blink and morph into a new form that quickly.

    Once the transformation is complete, the general public will continue to rely on the experts to learn to story.

    Comment by Nancy — August 23, 2008 @ 10:19 pm

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