The coming news coverage gap
December 14, 2008
Will micropayments save the day?
The recession is accelerating the inevitable: Papers are dying all around us.
Whether you view this with a sense of nostalgia, disbelief or excitement, and however you feel about new media, I see a big risk in this changeover.
You see, Arianna is happy to point out that blogs are starting to break the news, as in the case of Obama’s infamous ‘bitter cling to guns’ comment. Some bloggers do get scoops, especially around political news. And they’ve covered uprisings and natural disasters where the press wasn’t allowed or couldn’t reach.
Still, 99% of investigative reporting still comes from traditional news organizations, and blogs simply add an editorial and social layer on top.
Also, only a handful of bloggers can expect to make a living from their high-traffic sites. Those who blog about niche or local issues don’t have viable businesses under the current advertiser-supported model. They usually have a day job.
After all eyeballs move to the web advertising dollars will go farther and support more and more properties. But in the meantime, what happens when the papers go bankrupt and city, Washington and foreign bureaus are shut down? when AP and Reuters aren’t there anymore? Will laid-off journos start blogging while waiting tables to pay the bills?
This process will be abrupt and messy, which is feedstock for innovation. Solutions will be found. So I’m not worried about the long term. Encouraging models are starting to appear.
But in the short-term it would be so much cleaner if we had micropayments. $0.05 for a news piece, $0.10 to read a feature article.
The concept has been tried before and failed, but perhaps this is the perfect opportunity to give it another go. I hope someone is pitching this right now and will have a solid product in 09, just in time.