Scott Karp on Networked Newspapers

After a tremendous analysis of the superfluity of newspapers in the Web economy – stating that despite journalists’ and publishers’ sense of entitlement newspapers don’t have a workable business model – Scott Karp goes on to stub his toe:

[from The market and the internet don’t care if you make money]

So what does the market care about?


The web media market is a giant network. Google figured out how to harness the network. But nobody else has yet.

That’s not surprising. Media companies can only think about their own properties, their own content. They can’t let go of the monopoly control business which the web has already destroyed.

Since you made it this far in this post, I’ll tell you a secret, since this post was not meant to be defeatist, but rather a swift kick in the head.

So here’s the secret. Legacy media companies can’t create a new business model for news and journalism by themselves.

They have to work TOGETHER, to build a network — a giant network of much smaller pieces, loosely joined.

I’ve said this before. And I’ll surely say it again.

But most of the media company executives who read this blog will shrug and go back to trying to figure how to prop up their monopolies.

And those monopolies will continue to crumble faster every day.

Actually, the Web has provided a giant global network in which the newspapers do play a part, but not a very central one, alas.

There is zero likelihood that the traditional mainstream media people will somehow reconfigure themselves into a giant collective, pulling together for mutual benefit. Zero.

Meanwhile, there are numerous new initiatives on the Web to rethink jouornalism in the brave new world. I don’t think anything has emerged that’s totally compelling, except for the rise of social media as a whole. But a lot of newspapers are going to die off, and only a smidgeon will survive.

If the society cares about critical elements of old school journalism, someone will figure out how to produce and sell it, or else we will subsidize it, philanthropically or governmentally, like fluoride in the water.

But perhaps it is nothing like that. It is just a broken business model, given the new order of things. In Here Comes Everybody Clay Shirky tells the story of a Catholic Cardinal who bemoaned the devastating impact of the printing press on the clerical scribes, who now would have nothing to do, and what a loss to society it would be. But he published his pamphlet by printing press, not by using a roomful of scribes to do it.

The network is us, us, the people they are trying to write to or maybe at. It may be that the future of journalism is a non-market collective act, like open source software or Wikipedia, involving the work of millions and the stewardship of ten thousand news ‘curators’, many of which might be retreaded journalists. But I wouldn’t expect a mainstream publisher to initiate something like that. More likely to be George Soros, or Pierre Omidyar, or Tim O’Reilly.

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