Monday, November 26, 2007

How today’s Web journalism world still makes no financial sense

Ted Rall sis right as usual. Double of nothing (doubling your online visitors even as Internet ad rates stay near zero) doesn’t make sense.

And, it’s “liberal” blogs as well as “conservative” traditional media that aren’t getting it.

Wanna blog for Huffington Post? As Rall points out, they’ll pay you plenty of prestige, but zero dollars.

And, as long as you the publicity-hungry blogger make that sucker’s bet, Huff Post, including its charming Dragon First Lady, Ms. Arianna herself, will continue to double down on you. Like Rall says, try using "prestige" to pay the mortgage.

End result, says Rall:

Print media is dragging content providers into the abyss. First comes downsizing. Writers, cartoonists, and photographers are losing their jobs to peers willing to do the work for less or, in the case of readers invited to submit their comments and images for the thrill of appearing in the local rag, nothing. Then they squeeze those who remain for pay cuts. A cartoon that runs today in Time, Newsweek, USA Today, The New York Times or The Washington Post — the most prestigious and widely disseminated forums in the United States — brings its creator less than The Village Voice would have paid for it in the 1980s. Some print venues offer no payment at all.

What happens if we don’t do anything?
Unless something changes soon, deprofessionalization will further erode journalistic quality. The resulting dumbing down of our politics and culture will accelerate. We can’t get the toothpaste back into the tube. The Internet is here to stay. Unfortunately, the best way to make it more profitable — to stimulate all e-commerce, not just journalism--will require us to give up something dear to our rugged individualist American hearts: the illusion of Internet privacy.

Yes, it is an eye-opener, if disconcerting in a way, to hear Rall, an ardent civil libertarian, say that. But, between spyware that is logging keystrokes on infected computers to ISP providers being leaky sieves to the government even before 9/11, Net privacy, in many ways, went the way of the dodo long ago. Besides, your financial information went even more the way of the dodo even earlier, every time you zipped a debit card at the grocery store.

This is the first of a three-part series by Rall. I’m interested in hearing what he offers in the way of a solution.