Friday, February 20, 2009

That little thing called supply and demand

Nicholas Carr looks at the future of journalism and sees things that most new media pundits ignore:

The writing is on the paywall

Now here's what a lot of people seem to forget: Excess production capacity goes away, particularly when that capacity consists not of capital but of people. Supply and demand, eventually and often painfully, come back into some sort of balance. Newspapers have, with good reason, been pulling their hair out over the demand side of the business, where a lot of their product has, for the time being, lost its monetary value. But the solution to their dilemma actually lies on the production side: particularly, the radical consolidation and radical reduction of capacity. The number of U.S. newspapers is going to collapse (although we may have differently branded papers produced by the same production operation) and the number of reporters, editors, and other production side employees is going to continue to plummet. And syndication practices, geared to a world of geographic constraints on distribution, will be rethought and, in many cases, abandoned.

As all that happens, market power begins - gasp, chuckle, and guffaw all you want - to move back to the producer. The user no longer gets to call all the shots. Substitutes dry up, the perception of fungibility dissipates, and quality becomes both visible and valuable. The value of news begins, once again, to have a dollar sign beside it.


It's sort of like the old joke about out running the bear. The New York Times does not have to be profitable right now. It just has to lose money slower than the other newspapers.

No comments: