A (distributed) new media column- technology-enabled journalists needed

It is a scary time for many journalists as online advertising takes its toll.
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor

(A New Year and a new media...)

Disruption on the huge scale that we see in the media sector is scary for those caught inside the crumbling business models. The old media is dying faster than expected while the new media is still fledgling.

We don't yet have the new media business models figured out--which means jumping from the old to the new is very difficult.

I jumped from the Financial Times because it seemed the obvious thing to do--but it has wiped my financial resources cleaner than a micro-fibre cloth. I am but one of a handfull of journalist bloggers that operates without the safety net of a day job.

A not so mighty blogosphere

About 99.9999999 per cent of the  mighty blogosphere has a day job. Nothing is mighty unless it has a robust business model to support it.

And that's what I'm trying to figure out, and spending my savings doing it, because it is important. Because our media is the way our society solves problems--and we have big problems ahead.

Our professional media is being decimated--not by the blogosphere, but by the efficiency of online advertising. Yet professional media, even online, cannot live by Google AdSense alone--or any of the other Yahoo, Kanoodle, etc type of advertising networks.

Those online ad networks pay way too little to support a professional media sector. The New York Times spends about $1.5m annually to support its Baghdad bureau. The New York Times online operations can't support the Baghdad bureau,  and the many hundreds of journalists it has in bureaus around around the world.

We will figure out the new media business models but in the meantime, it is going to be a very unpleasant time for journalists and our societies.

Sharp end of the stick

Newsrooms are unhappy places; five years of continued job freezes and layoffs, over-worked staff, pay raises are rare, moods are dark, and the future has never looked bleaker. It is never a good place to be on the disrupting end of the sharp stick of technology.

But I think the future is bright for technology-enabled journalists/media professionals. And that the "media engineer" will be a well-paid job. Here is my reasoning:

-Machine-produced content, pages of links such as those published by Google, Yahoo and others, is cheap to make. Therefore it has a value that continues to lessen as competitors can produce "good enough" or even "a bit better than" the current offerings.

Yes, you need is some servers and some software engineers. But software engineers are cheap and getting cheaper. From Poland, the Philippines, Portugal, Paraguay, Peru, Papua New Guinea-multitudes are entering the programming market--and that is just the "P" countries :-)

Servers are cheap and getting cheaper. Software development technologies and tools have never been easier to learn and use. Information technology is rapidly becoming a utility--and coming ever closer to the price of electricity(!)

Yet journalists/professional media people are in short supply and becoming rarer. The content produced by people is content that cannot be produced by machines, (by definition) and therefore has greater value, overall.

All those links on the search pages have to point to something of value otherwise they are pointless.

Ditch the word processor

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