Here’s a very interesting article by Robert Picard on how little value journalists actually create.
Some who bemoan the coming bankruptcy of the newspaper industry claim that journalists provide an invaluable service in uncovering corruption and acting as watchdog of public officials for the public.
If that was ever true, it hasn’t been true for a long time. Investigative reporting on anything that actually matters is a microscopic part of what newspapers and journalists do, and as the article notes, most journalists spend their time producing material that offers extremely little that can’t be found in many other places for free. (Also note Picard’s nice use of the subjective theory of value.)
Although he didn’t, Picard could have included a note on how the management is just as hopeless on this as is the rank-and-file reporter. Dean Singleton is probably the poster boy for aging, out-of-touch newspaper executives who think that the key to newspaper success is to simply start charging readers to read online content. Singleton wants to charge for the the same, valueless content that Picard describes, but Singleton thinks people are just dying to read it.
Indeed, Singleton (who is on the Associated Press Board of Directors) recently went on a rant against Google for being too efficient a news aggregator (that’s the newspaper’s job!), and said he was going to make sure that the freeloading public will pay, pay, pay.
The whole affair only displays Singleton’s deep, deep ignorance of how content is used on the internet, and Picard’s look at just how mundane, standardized, and interchangable most news content has become, really illustrates just how impossible it will be for Singleton to control the content he thinks he can keep safe and sound behind a wall.
[Clay Shirky has also provided a nice examination of why news content cannot be contained behind pay walls]
Amazingly, Singleton has also announced that the Denver Post will now demand payment to view its online stories. This won’t make the Post profitable, but it will ensure that the Post becomes irrelevant to the educated public.