I've been saying for a year now that all media organizations need to separate creation from distribution. Newpspaper are a good place to start because their distribution model is so broken, the industry is so troubled, the savings potential is huge, and the opportunity is vast.
Creation, especially of quality journalism, is a very small part of the total budget of the newspaper business. Once you take out presses, trucks, paper, rewriting wire copy, rewriting press releases, soft features, laying out pages, and overhead, the actual cost of gathering, writing and editing the news that matters to the continuing function of our democracy is a pretty small part of the total cost of journalism. And it's the part that is most worth preserving.
Modern national and international news organizations already are beginning to look more like wire services than newspapers. It may be time to move that model down to the regional and metropolitan level, as well as up from the ultralocal level to neighborhoods and communities.
By separating creation from distribution, we can create newsgathering organizations that are efficient, worth preserving, and very cheap compared to the cost of supporting them. Matt Yglesias gets this, although I'm not certain I'd endow all the organizations he's considering. I'd prefer to endow entirely new newsgathering operations whose primary purpose is informing the public.
I've had an interesting day digesting the Digital Britain report from the UK's Minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting, Lord Carter. My colleague Mark Mulligan will be posting his response to some of the detail of the report, but for now I wanted to reflect on why this is a landmark document.
That job title, for a start, is something we haven't seen before. The UK government has never really given the impression that it cares about the web or digital technology, but perhaps as another benefit of the Obama presidency, Gordon Brown decided it was time to create a new role for a big hitter.
For hard core politicos the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has traditionally been seen as a lightweight gig, derided as the Ministry of Fun. Today we had the Prime Minister acknowledging the wider value of a digital infrastructure, describing it as a "backbone of the economy." As an analyst know that's true, I just didn't expect to hear it from Gordon Brown.
It's easy to forget as we watch penetration numbers rise for social services, what these numbers look like when they hit small communities of connected people. I was reminded of this last night.
Every year, my wife takes photos of the kids in the Half Moon Bay High School musical. The pictures are used in the play program, become headshots for the handful who act in other venues, and are shared with friends and family. She takes a lot of care to produce great-looking shots and it shows.
This year is the first time anyone asked her for a copy to put on Facebook, and everybody asked for her to email them a copy for Facebook.
Jeff says that print advertising worked as a business because there was a limited supply of space. But it also worked as a business because it was staggeringly inefficient. A Realtor had to buy access to a million readers to reach to two dozen who were looking for a neighborhood open house. That model has been broken for at least five years.
He has some great suggestions for new kinds of businesses for media companies. You should read his whole list, but here are my takes on some of them:
This is my first blog post for Forrester, so let me introduce myself. I'm Nick Thomas and I'm an analyst covering media issues for Consumer Product Strategy Professionals.
The hot topic in the UK media sector at the moment is the future of Public Service Broadcasting, and more specifically what funding model the broadcaster Channel 4 will have in the future. I won't go into the detail of the debate here, fascinating though it is. Instead, let me reflect on the bigger issues arising from it which have struck me in this historic week. We are indeed entering a new era.
Speaking at the Oxford Media Convention this morning, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Andy Burnham, offered a sobering view of the media landscape which may have been obvious for the assembled audience of media types, but which from a UK government minister is nevertheless still fairly radical.
"Old certainties have broken down," he argued. "That much is clear in global finance, but it is equally true in media. And this change is happening on many fronts.
"The change that was coming in the multi-channel, online age – the structural threat to the advertising revenue funded model – has accelerated with the change in the world economy.