Brian Fuller's blog on the media, marketing and content creation

That dog won’t hunt

Posted on | March 26, 2008 | 2 Comments

Eric Alterman writes this week in the New Yorker about the future, such as it isn’t, of newspapers in America (Thanks to Tim for birddoggin’ it).

He doesn’t predict the quick demise of the Fourth Estate but wonders aloud,

Just how an Internet-based news culture can spread the kind of “light” that is necessary to prevent terrible things, without the armies of reporters and photographers that newspapers have traditionally employed…

Yeah, we all wonder about that.
The really interesting line in his piece, however, indirectly references the 800-pound elephant in the new-media love shack: The advertising model.
The Huffington Post, he notes, has 46 fulltime employees and “is poised” to break even on revenues of $6 to $10 million a year. Poised to break even.
How does that dog hunt? This is an operation that gets most of its content for free, is arguably the most influential blog on the planet, has no printing press and no distribution costs to speak of. How do you NOT make money on that?
There are dead-tree publications that make a nice profit at those revenue levels with a tenth the content-generation capabilities. But they’ve been through years of painful retrenching to stay that way.
It could very well be that the media does disaggregate into a new digital model and each property that becomes successful is not a purveyor of objective information but a site with an ax to grind. It was ever so before the mid-19th century in America. But they have to be able to make money. Democracy does not ride on the backs of hobbyists, in any of the four estates.

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2 Responses to “That dog won’t hunt”

  1. Lou Covey
    March 26th, 2008 @ 2:42 pm

    One of the truly great weaknesses of the new media crowd is the belief that profit just magically appears, kinda like the underwear gnomes of South Park. The only way for new media to truly succeed is to get some experienced old-media people involved who understand the process of information gathering and dissemination.

    We are in a tough time right now, but all ecologies, including economic ones, tend to find balance.

    I don’t think that Arianna has a lot of hope, though.

  2. Loring Wirbel
    March 26th, 2008 @ 5:13 pm

    Are you suggesting everything in the world of Web 2.0 ISN’T sprinkled with fairy dust and blessed by spells and incantations? Ooh, Kevin Rose and Jason Calacanis will be SO disappointed.

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