May 14, 2009

Information warehouse

The Economist takes a turn analyzing the decline of newspapers and speculating about what comes next. The British magazine argues that newspapers, as a news delivery system, are going through an evolution something like what happened to retail outlets - from mom & pop, to city department stores, to national chains, to Wal-Martization. Alongside the information warehouses, there are the boutique aggregator sites, specializing in specialized content and providing a higher level of curating, as editorial content control is now called.

From the Economist:

The main victim of this trend is not so much the newspaper (although it is certainly declining) as the conventional news package. Open almost any leading metropolitan newspaper, or look at its website, and you will find the same things. There will be a mixture of local, national, international, business and sports news. There will be weather forecasts. There will be display and classified advertisements. There will be leaders, letters from readers, and probably a crossword.

This package, which was emulated first by broadcasters and then by internet pioneers such as and, works rather like an old-fashioned department store. It provides a fair selection of useful information of dependable quality in a single place. And the fate of the news package is similar to that of the department store. Some customers have been lured away by discount chains; others have been drawn to boutiques.

The Wal-Marts of the news world are online portals like Yahoo! and Google News, which collect tens of thousands of stories. Some are licensed from wire services like Reuters and the Associated Press. But most consist simply of a headline, a sentence and a link to a newspaper or television website where the full story can be read. The aggregators make money by funnelling readers past advertisements, which may be tailored to their presumed interests. They are cheap to run: Google News does not even employ an editor.

If the model is true, then we'd be seeing depressed wages (check), cheaper production values (check), increased outsourcing (check), less local control despite calls for more (check), a push to lower quality and standards (check), and mass consolidation, bankruptcies and layoffs (check, check, check).

1 comment:

nota said...

Speaking of The Economist - that's a perfect example of a media outlet using the "premium access" model for their web operations, and doing very well with it.

Of course, they've also got premium level content to back up their strategy. That doesn't hurt.