Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Media Value Equation

David Carr had a good column in the NYT this Monday on the impact the economic crisis is having on the business press.

Among a number of great insights Carr writes:

"There are several technical reasons underlying the collapse — and that’s what it is — of business journalism. Business wisdom that is imprisoned in printed pages, already locked in the past, increasingly seems like a curio. Who cares what happened yesterday or last week, when the fortunes of a stock can change in millisecond? Most business people already know what happened today, and what they really care about is tomorrow."

News, like all kinds of information today is hyper-commoditized. Not long ago news of any depth or specialty came in a magazine delivered to your mailbox or newspaper tossed on the font lawn. Most people had limited and dependable sources for news on topics from business and politics to art and culture.

Those days are long gone. For example, this week, elections where held in states around the country. I was able to get results from scores of sources near instantaneously, even on obscure races and ballot measures.

As someone who runs a media business, the ubiquity of information is a big concern. Fairly specialized, it used to be our publications were the only place you could easily get the kind of news and information we provided. So, while the business press have their own unique problems, this commoditization of information challenges all of us in media.

Taking this a bit further I recently came across a 1999 Atlantic article by Peter Drucker in which he compares developments between the Industrial and Information Revolutions. Drucker notes:

“…The Industrial Revolution in its first half century only mechanized the production of goods that had been in existence all along. It tremendously increased output and tremendously decreased costs. “

That was some hundred years ago with things like textile and agricultural products. Today the web is doing this same thing to content creation. The Internet has become the Wal-Mart of media, expanding distribution and driving down costs, creating major headaches for publishers and those who work for them.

All this comes back to Carr’s artilce. What do readers really care about? That’s a question of VALUE and getting a clear sense of that with respect to readers. Our aim at e.Republic, far from fully realized as yet, is to continually refine our value, aiming to be relevant, career critical and at our best, truly indispensable to our audience.