Why Your Idea to Save Journalism Won't Work (a checklist)

Oh, how I love fightorflight from Metafilter's checklist on why your plan to save journalism won't work. Top marks!
Your post advocates a

( ) technical ( ) legislative (X) market-based ( ) crowd-sourced

approach to saving journalism. Your idea will not work. Here is why it won't work. (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may have other flaws owing to the avaraciousness of modern publishers.)

( ) It does not provide an income stream to the working journalist
( ) Nobody will spend eight hours sitting in a dull council meeting to do it
( ) No one will be able to find the guy
(X) It is defenseless against copy-and-paste
(X) It tries to prop up a fundamentally broken business model
(X) Users of the web will not put up with it
( ) Print readers will not put up with it
( ) Good journalists will not put up with it
( ) Requires too much cooperation from unwilling sources
( ) Requires immediate total cooperation from everybody at once
(X) Many publishers cannot afford to lose what little business they have left
( ) Anyone could anonymously destroy anyone else's career or business
( ) Even papers run by trusts and charities are already going bankrupt

Specifically, your plan fails to account for

(X) Readers' unwillingness to pay for just news
( ) The existence and popularity of the BBC
(X) Unavoidable availability of free alternatives
( ) Sources' proven unwillingness to "go direct"
( ) The difficulty of investigative journalism
( ) The massive tedium of investigative journalism
(X) The high cost of investigative journalism
( ) Unpopularity of weird new taxes
(X) Editorial departments small enough to be profitable are too small to do real reporting
( ) Legal liability of "citizen journalism"
( ) The training required to be even an rubbish journalist
(X) What readers want, in the main, is celebrity and football
( ) The necessity of the editing process
(X) Americans' huge distrust of professional journalism
( ) Reluctance of governments and corporations to be held to account by two guys with a blog
( ) Inability of two guys with a blog to demand anything
( ) How easy it is for subjects to manipulate two guys with no income
( ) Rupert Murdoch
( ) The inextricably local nature of much newsgathering
( ) The dependence of all other forms of news media on print reporting
( ) The dependence of national press on local press reporting
( ) Technically illiterate politicians
( ) The tragedy of the commons
( ) The classified-driven business model of much print publishing
(X) The tiny amounts of money to be made from online ads for small sites
Problem with your plan to save media: the checklist (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)



    1. “( ) The classified-driven business model of much print publishing”

      Not quite as pithy; but it is there.

  1. Anyone else using Firefox and can’t see the ends of the lines on this post?

    … destroy anyone else’s career or business
    … trusts and charities are already going bankru

  2. Fan – wait for it …


    This will save me a lot of time dealing with an industry full of addle-braineds who are convinced they’ve solved everything.

  3. Definitely worth a click-through to the MetaFilter page… there’s more.

    …philosophical objections may also apply:
    ( ) You are Jeff Jarvis
    ( ) Or Dave Winer


  4. Yup, got the Firefox problem too. I’m running a 3.0.14 on Ubuntu Jaunty. Was able to read everthing in the Brief Add-on, but in the actual post, the lines’ ends are missing. I guess that must be the pre tag used within the fixed-width div.

    If you have the problem too, just open the page source to read the actual list. It is very readable there, as there are no HTML tags within.

  5. Oh they cut the ways to save list to save space

    Ways to save journalism (comprehensive list):

    Look at all that space they saved

  6. @sam

    I think the original version of this checklist dealt with either email or usenet. It’s OLD and probably predates the web. Slashdot and others riff on it from time to time, but the original is hilarious. Too bad I can’t seem to find a copy =(

  7. Not bad, although calling it “a fundamentally broken business model” may be begging the question a little bit.

  8. What a surprise, another BB post advocating for the downfall of journalism. Seriously, what the fuck…? Why is BB constantly psyched to write journalism’s obit?

  9. Technical, marketing or even legal attempts to solve social problems will never work, so these could be ruled out.

    The social or even psychological problem is: the managers of journalism treated their field as a management playground for too long. The result: quality is low (in order to keep the prices down), journalists are mostly underpaid anyway.

    You could say Journalism is choking on bad management. The management wants that we take all their stuff and pay. The consumers don’t want all their stuff, but only specific parts – and usually dont want to pay or if, only small amounts.

    Either the management catches up or will soon be cut out as the middleman as an increasing amount of laid-off professional journalists start their own blogs supported by ads and donations.

    Greetings, LX

  10. I understand that classifieds income is gone & is never coming back, but can anyone explain to me why advertisers aren’t willing to pay as much for a webad as opposed to print ad, despite the fact that the web ad will potentially reach far more eyeballs?

    Genuine question, not a rhetorical one. Is it because the market already set the value of web ads at one far lower than print & the papers don’t have the power to start changing the price by themselves?

    Considering this is a solution that wouldn’t affect readers AT ALL, I don’t know why it isn’t talked about. The audience is online, why don’t advertisers pay equivalent prices to what they’d pay in print/on television?

    1. Short answer: display ads in print have traditionally commanded high prices based on total circulation (i.e. potential eyeballs); because web traffic can easily be logged, advertisers now demand rates be based on click-throughs (i.e. actual eyeballs).

      So, yes, the market did set the value of Web ads far lower than print — because a) actual statistics on viewer response were difficult to obtain until the web came along, so b) print ad prices were artificially inflated. File this one under “propping up a broken business model,” as per the checklist above.

  11. To the Firefox guys, if it makes you feel any better, it doesn’t work on IE8, either, not even in compatibility mode. ;)

    Boyfinley: your idea runs afoul of at least this one: “Requires immediate total cooperation from everybody at once”. It is (probably) a market value issue, and trying to magically change that doesn’t work.

  12. boyfinley: you prettymuch nailed it I think.
    Web-ad revenues must compete with the big boys like Google. Google essentially sets the rates for online ads. Your ads have to be cheaper than Google, because Google *will* reach more eyeballs than you, and *will* be better targeted than you, even if your ads are handpicked to apply to each specific article.

    In the print world, the newspapers are the “big boys” and get to set the going rate. Not so online.

  13. The problem is not that you can’t get people to sit in City Council meetings all day, it’s that the ones who do that are all insane.

  14. Maybe if we keep asking the right questions, the right answers will come. Maybe. So this is a time saver.

    And the problem indeed is, lots of folks want to know what City Council DOES, but few want to sit through it. (Or, as we may be learning, to pay someone to sit through it.)

    Hmm, intelligent filters? Auto-transcription so when your keywords come up (neighborhood, issue) you get a text alert to turn on the video feed, or watch it later?

    Ah technology, tool and weapon, hero and villain all in one. As usual;-)

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