Silicon Insider: Surfing Upstream

At the dawn of the Web, of cable news, and of people like Matt Drudge, newspapers, network television and news magazines, realizing that they could no longer compete in terms of timeliness, decided to go the opposite direction into feature stories, opinion and analysis. The result, as we've seen over the last decade has been what can only be described as a desperate rear-guard battle by the traditional media. Watching circulation, then ad revenues fall, they have mostly responded by cutting back on staff. Veteran reporters and editors have been given golden parachutes, newsroom staffs have been slashed, and young reporters simply haven't been hired.

The result? I get a call every few days essentially offering one of the local Bay Area papers to me at 1958 subscription prices. Meanwhile, after years of disparaging Drudge and the bloggers (a job now assumed by the New Yorker), newspapers and magazines have now decided to imitate them. It's profitable, but it still misses the mark

The message coming from us upstream surfers; from those millions of people who read Drudge every day - and who may have almost thrown us into a real recession -- and from those tens of millions of bloggers out there linking like crazy to a handful of breaking news stories; is not that we need fewer news filters, but that we need more. The problem with what happened on Tuesday was not the presence of Matt Drudge, but the fact that there aren't more folks like him, offering a wide range of snarky, mischievous and fun headlines.

If newspapers could do it over again, they should have sold off their physical assets, hired more reporters, editors and freelancers at a lower initial salary, opened more news bureaus around the world (if only in the form of solitary stringers working out of their apartments) instead of shutting them down, and demanded more hard news reporting from their reporters and a lot less editorializing and analysis.

If that sounds counterintuitive, so is the entire history of high tech. Every time a threatened industry has tried to survive by adopting the new paradigm it has failed. The only solution is to come up with an even newer paradigm of your own.

That's what Matt Drudge did, and now it seems he can move the entire world economy. When was the last time a New York Times headline did that?

TAD'S TAB: I recently came across a site called BuzzDash. Basically, it allows you to vote on a range of topics, including entertainment, news, and even philosophy. For example, a recent vote asks: "Assuming there's life in outer space, are they smarter than us?" 59% voted 'I'll bet', while 41% voted 'I doubt it.' All it takes is a free registration, and you are set to vote -- even create your own survey, called a "buzzbite", for others to vote on.

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