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

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?
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor

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?

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