I was on a panel yesterday at the Future Of Journalism conference in Brisbane. As you can perhaps tell from earleyedition’s tweets, my comments were not well received. As usual, I tried my best to explain that the economics of media have fundamentally changed and that means all bets are off. But, as usual, nobody listened and I was accused of being a “shock jock” espousing “revolutionary rhetoric”. Jean Burgess from QUT used the old line about “we’ve had technological shifts before and it didn’t cause the end of the industry”, completely missing the point that this is NOT about a technology shift – it’s about an economic shift.
Fifteen years ago, if I wanted to publish something to a wide audience, the financial barriers were extreme. The cost of owning a newspaper or magazine were (and still are) very high. So very few people were able to own one. It was a limited playing field. Consequently, the people who *did* own a newspaper had the market to themselves. There was limited competition for people’s attention. As a result, they could carve their local market up between themselves and fund their business through advertising.
However, today, anyone can publish something online. The economic barriers have been removed. Consequently, there are 75 million active blogs that I can read, not 4 newspapers. And so audience attention is fragmenting and the traditional news companies can’t control it. As they lose audience, their ability to generate advertising revenue diminishes. As revenue declines, they can’t afford to maintain their old cost structures, so they start downsizing. Sound familiar? It’s a negative spiral. And there is NO. WAY. OUT.
Anyway, I’d like to thank Antony Funnell from ABC radio’s “Media Report” for doing a great job moderating our panel. He did a good job getting everyone’s views, including the ones that were extremely unpopular.