Old media loves nothing quite so much as writing about their own impending death. And we always enjoy adding our own two cents – the AP not knowing what YouTube is, the NYTimes guys reading TechCrunch every day, etc.
Speaking broadly, I like what Reuters, Rupert Murdoch and Eric Schmidt are saying: the industry is in crisis, and the daring innovators will prevail. Personally, I still think the best way forward for the best journalists, if not the brands they currently work for, is to leave those brands and do their own thing.
But as one of the innovators in the last go round, I think there’s a much bigger problem lurking on the horizon than a bunch of blogs and aggregators disrupting old media business models that needed disrupting anyway. The rise of fast food content is upon us, and it’s going to get ugly.
Old media frets over blogs and aggregators that summarize content and link back to the original source. They can’t make a business in that world, they say, so they run the other way and try to find a way to protect and charge for content.
These are the cavemen, or whoever, who were afraid of fire when it was discovered because it burned, or was too technologically advanced to really understand. The smart guys used it to cook their meat and keep them warm, and multiplied.
For our part, we throw a party when someone “steals” our content and links back to us. High fives all around the office. At least there’s some small nod in our direction. And the aggregators like TechMeme can figure out who broke the news. Page views are lost, but reputation is gained.
But for every link there are dozens of sites that outright steal our content with no attribution. Not just spam blogs, even the NYTimes does it. This isn’t a copyright issue – the stories are rewritten by actual people. But it’s far cheaper to simply take the news and rewrite it – if you can get away with it – than to hire people who do actual journalism. Over time, it becomes a competitive tax that is difficult to bear.
But even then, companies like ours can find a way to compete.
So what really scares me? It’s the rise of fast food content that will surely, over time, destroy the mom and pop operations that hand craft their content today. It’s the rise of cheap, disposable content on a mass scale, force fed to us by the portals and search engines.
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