The rise of search . . . and the decline in journalism

The rise of search . . . and the decline in journalism

Summary: The new media companies, such as Google, Yahoo, Ebay, are succeeding because they cut out the need for large numbers of media professionals. Is this good for society?

TOPICS: Browser

How will we pay for the media professionals needed for a thriving society? We need professional journalists in large enough numbers so that we can ensure a high degree of accuracy in the content of our media.

A high quality media means we can figure out solutions to big problems all the more quickly because media is the way society "thinks."  And we have a ton of big problems to figure out right now: flu pandemics, energy issues, wars, aging populations, climate changes, etc. Better quality of information leads to better decision making.

The problem is that we are losing our media professionals. It is not the blogosphere that is to blame, it is the new generations of technology-enabled media companies.

Google, Yahoo, Ebay, and many others, have figured out how to use servers to generate pages of content combined with highly targeted advertising. This has cut the cost of selling a product or service significantly.

The trouble is that the new media companies are growing wealthy on the money that used to pay for large teams of media professionals online and in newspapers, radio and TV. As the professional media class shrinks, it undermines the overall quality of our media.

Yes, the rise of the blogosphere has filled some of the gap but let's remember that the  blogosphere has a day job. The blogosphere is 99.999 per cent voluntary. Bloggers don't have to create content every day. Journalists do it every day. [Is this a bumper sticker?].

Professional journalists write/report/study/interview/write/check facts/write/edit/consider/weigh up consequences, etc, every day. Bloggers blog when they feel like it, they have a day job, and they don't have the same incentives to consistently produce high quality media.

Citizen journalism does have an important place in the mediasphere but it cannot replace our need for professional journalists. And the funding for such media professionals is disappearing at a faster rate as the new media companies ramp up ever more efficient advertising/marketing services.

BTW, I do not consider myself a blogger in the popular sense. I am a media professional, a former Financial Times reporter, using the blog format and software to produce an online publication called Silicon Valley Watcher, that publishes original news and articles about the business and culture of Silicon Valley.

I am also trying to discover the new online business models that will support a professional media class. If I succeed, then all my colleagues in the print world win too, because they will know they can do the same.

However, we don't yet have the new media business models in place. We will get there--I've no doubt about that--it's just that it could take longer to get there . . . and quicker to fall apart.

Or, as I like to say: what happens if the old media dies before the new media learns to walk?

Topic: Browser

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  • No more

    "We need professional journalists in large enough numbers so that
    we can ensure a high degree of accuracy in the content of our

    We don't need more, we need better journalists.

    They can start by learning how to do basic research on stories.
    Richard Flude
    • journalists...

      The problem is that cutbacks in newsrooms mean journalists have to do two, three times the work they normally do, which ups the potential for mistakes. And if we can have more professional journalists, then we can afford the time needed to properly research stories.
  • ZDNet uses bloggers as an excuse for poor Journalism

    This is a web site that's supposed to be journalism oriented but instead, they are mixing in bloggers who are working for or influenced by Microsoft. Talk about conflicts of interests and journalism ethics!
    ZDNet Management said that bloggers are not journalists and therefore are immune to professional standards and ethics.
    If readers are looking for News they should go elsewhere, however if they are looking for Microsoft influenced bloggers, stay tuned.
    • bloggers and journalists

      We have one blogger John Carroll who is a Microsoftie and his bias is clearly labeled and exposed. You don't have to read his blog posts. ZDNet management has not said the bloggers are not journalists...we have people who write and know a great deal about the subject matter and put their reputations on the line...
      • Re: bloggers and journalists

        All articles and blogs on ZDNet are conforming to Journalism standards?
        Only John Carroll is guilty? How about George Ou? Although he's been keeping a low profile lately because of all the heat he's getting, he was clearly an ambassador for Microsoft. Just look back at his previous blogs. Yes, his duty to defend Microsoft and attack OpenOffice, Linux, FireFox, and all that is a threat to Micro$oft.
        What's sickening is that ZDNet thinks that readers are stupid and won't see that. Well, we know Microsoft can buy whoever and whatever they want.
        ZDNet is only good for entertainment not real journalism.
        • What is truly sickening

          are those like you who decide 'good' from 'bad' merely by weather the writer agrees with you and your prejudices.
    • What about...

      ...Paul Murphy? What about David Berlind? What about Dan Faber? Are they all Microsoft-influenced also? If so, Microsoft is wasting its money.

      Carl Rapson
    • What about...

      ...Paul Murphy? What about David Berlind? What about Dan Farber? Are they all Microsoft-influenced also? If so, Microsoft is wasting its money.

      Carl Rapson
    • ZDNet uses bloggers as an excuse?

      I think the correspondent has got it wrong. It isn't an excuse for poor journalism. If true then it's about bias. But then I don't see much evidence of that in Tom's writing (you could hardly call him an MSFT apologist) or Mary Jo's (tell me where the MSFT bias is there?)

      I also believe there's a myth out there that hacks can't/don't/won't 'get it' whatever 'it' happens to be at the time. My sense is that hacks do get it, they're just not very sure how it impacts their livelihoods. And if it's likely to be negative then they're hardly likely to be keen on embracing the technology.
  • Simple

    Everybody is happier.

    So journalism is being outsourced. Booh-hooh.
  • media professionals?

    "The trouble is that the new media companies are growing wealthy on the money that used to pay for large teams of media professionals online and in newspapers, radio and TV."

    And this is somehow bad? Promulgating the lock-step thinking of the professional journalist class is better? Clearly I am missing something here, as this sounds like protectionist whining to this ear.
  • Death of Media is GREAT for America

    When technology opens up the mass media to everyone so that everyone (or at least lots of Americans) can create and distribute content, that will be a new dawn for America.

    The corpwhorate media and "professional journalists" are traitors in my opinion

    Too bad for you corpwhorate media traitors who cannot find work. Well, actually, I like the idea. What goes around, comes around. You pumped out corporate propaganda and sold American livelihoods overseas and now your livelihood is gone. Gee, I am all broken up over that....
  • When the sock has a hole in it , you throw it away...

    I think it is a perculiar kind of conceit, one tht could only be held be a tech writer, that would attribute the decline in "quality" journalism to the increase in popularity of online search engines and their more cost effective advertising model. the decline in mainstream journalism is more likely due to the fragmentation of our societies television watching habits, the pointed bias shown by the major media outlets, and the push to make the news more entertaining.
  • trust in journalism is gone

    ditto on what edixon said... i would add... it's obvious that anything you read, see, and hear tagged "news" is just propaganda bought and sold by corporations who own these so-called journalists, journalistic institutions... there is no independent media, too much power and control is concentrated in the hands of too few who remain transparent to the average viewer, and basically in the last 6 years journalism per say has lost all credibility - what little it had left.
    • The issue could be simpler

      Trust in the professional journalist is very low these days, and you certainly see that reflected in the comments to Tom's article.

      But you could frame the question in a simpler way: Would the public get better information if there were more people who could get paid to provide it?

      You may not like the ethics, ownership, or track record of today's professional journalists. Is an army of part-timers better? I think that's at the crux of Tom's blog.

      Stephen Howard-Sarin

      P.S. ZDNet, for its part, is using blogs partly to answer that question for tech media. We have full-time, experienced journalists on staff blogging *and* we have a bunch of part-timers with specific areas of expertise.
      Stephen Howard-Sarin
  • let's also feel sorry for Oracle, Verizon, EDS...

    I guess we should also lament the decline of quality of software developers at the larger vendors because of emergence of open source competition, of reliable telecomm because of VoIP, trusted outaourcing because of offshore options, etc etc?

    Incumbents have a huge advantage - they have established brands and customer bases. When alternatives emerge it is because incumbents are over priced or not innovating enough.

    I am ex Gartner and have my own blog. The blogs I read (I just wrote a blog yesterday outlining my favorites - see

    ) bring a practitioner edge (their day job as you call it). They share perspectives that traditional media and industry analysts are either too slow or too conflicted to write about. But I read and quote generously from BusinessWeek, WSJ, Gartner, Forrester, others in my blog. They provide other very good perspectives.

    It is not either/or...

    Oracle just invested in an open source acquisition, EDS is building its own offshore model, Verizon is starting to offer VoIP. In each case they bad mouth the alternative but see where the market is headed.

    Mainstream media can similarly harness the power of bloggers.

    Quit feeling sorry for still have paying customers and advertisers ...find ways to keep them - us bloggers can help,,,
  • Journalists???

    As a professional journalist, I must say a number of you have false impressions about just how influenced so called professioanls are by advertisers and politics. There are bloggers out there with far more ethics than many so called pros--trust me. And half of what you see on TV news is really PR.
    • And you lump all pros with TV?

      I find the conspiracy theorists are out in force today.

      Don't try to tell the average military official, or Fortune 500
      executive that the media is on their side.

      I've been a journalist for over 15 years - in newspapers. TV
      is much more compromised in terms of ethics, but it's
      simply compromised to get viewers. Not to push one
      government or business agenda. Far from it. And those
      who think so are fools to think so. They obviously don't
      view or read the news with anything resembling critical

      The biggest problem is that news organzations are traded
      by Wall Street which pushes them to ever-increasing
      returns on their investments. The problem is, journalism
      isn't manufacturing, it's a service. It uses advertising to sell
      the space the news fills. And it's vastly more profitable than
      almost any other sector of business. Sure the owners whine
      about reduction in profits, but as one friend who owned an
      insurance company told me, "Newspapers average 17
      percent profit margin? I'd kill for seven percent!" (And there
      is more than one chain that demands a 30 percent profit
      margin from it's workers and turns them into virutal slaves
      to accomplish it!)

      I got out of the news business for one reason. I loved it. It
      was like having a mission in life. To tell people the truth
      about their world and to help them understand it better.
      But I couldn't make enough money to plan for a retirement.
      So I got out. It's too bad. They could use more journalists
      like me in the business who cared more about the product
      than their employer's bottom line.

      There are lots of journalists who are like that still in the
      business. Unfortunately, their numbers shrink because
      journalists are THE WORST PAID college graduates in the
      US. (We did a study while I was in in J-School at Mizzou).
      What do people expect? Many of the best and brightest who
      would be great journalists don't go that way because the
      pay is so dismal, and the mediocrity of those who are in
      charge of hiring filters out those who would be "trouble."

      Still, to listen to the commentors in this talkback section,
      you'd think just the opposite of the way things actually are.
      But then that's no suprise. People don't like journalists who
      tell them what they don't want to hear. Better to denigrate
      the messenger than to seriously consider the message.