Beginning of the decade predictions are wonderfully fun. For the columnists making them.
But they're generally about as accurate as George W. Bush talking about ... well, pretty much anything. Except for those predictions as obvious as a Sunday morning hangover.
And the obvious is boring.
But why shouldn't I have fun at your expense? I'm a journalist. What else have I got to do?
So here's my expert prediction:
The fate of journalism over the next decade!Ready? Here it comes:
More layoffs and less profit.
Why will will this be? Because media "moguls" like Rupert Murdoch think they can fight the Google News ripoff machine and bypass the Google by hiding content behind Google-proof walls guarded by toll bridges. Take that, Larry and Sergey! Hahaha! You can't make money off me!
I meant the idea, not Mr. Rupert. No, really.
The problem is that everyone in the journalism biz seems to agree with the divine Mr. M., at least to the extent that they believe we should pay subscriptions for online news.
Hogwarts, I say.
Won't work. You'll never keep your story exclusive for more than 27.43 seconds. I've timed it. Why pay to go to a site for a news story that I can find on a bazillion, two hundred thousand and six blogs who've repeated the story? You can't sue 'em all.
Mr. Rupert, Have you ever heard of Salon.com? Tried it. Didn't work. Dropped it.
But wait! There's more! I have another prediction, one of a more enlightened time! The next, next big decade!
Journalism in 2021:OK, this one is really good:
Real online news, written and reported by real journalists, who get paid real wages, supported by ...
advertising!Huh? Wait. What? Everybody knows that nobody makes enough money off advertising to buy enough Preparation H for a year. Am I crazy?
I often ask myself that question.
That's as may be. But I'm telling you, the future of journalism is online, and the future of online journalism is advertising.
The problem is not that advertising-supported news is a bad idea for the 21st Century. It worked for most of the 20th Century.
The problem is that Internet advertising sucks!
Let's go to Salon's home page. Any ads there for >Me<? OK, here we go. Click.
Uh, a pop-up for a free audio book? Miss. (Books are meant to be read, not heard.)
Acid reduction? Miss. (I haven't dropped any in years.)
Berkeley MBAs? Miss. (Ick.)
(I mean, who wants an MBA these days? Who wants an MBA grad to run their company any more? Or their state?
Technology, yeah, that's the clicker...
I know! Let's go to the 'Tech and Biz' section of Salon in search of ads more interesting to tech readers!
Berkeley MBAs again. Miss again. (Ick again.)
TurboTax. Miss. (Nice try, but I use an accountant. The IRS would never believe my deductions otherwise.)
But wait! What's that over to the right? Ads by Pulse 36C:
Teeth whitener discovered by a mom. Miss. How a mom lost 57 pounds. Miss.
OK, and I'm insulted by the implications. I'm not a mom.
And how'd they get the name 36C?
But wait, there's one more more...
Aha! Something else, at the bottom. Ads by Google:
Get Nexus One. Hit! (Once Verizon Wireless has it, I'm there.)
I flip around looking for other Google ads. Natural skin care. Miss. (The Google must've seen me looking up skin rash medications. No, no, really, it's not that kind of a rash.) War on the Dollar Exposed! Miss. (The Google has probably been reading my emails complaining about government bailouts for everyone except >Me<.)
Of course, your results may vary.
Here's the score:
Salon sales reps: Zero.
Pulse 36C: Zero.
The Google AdSense: One. And some scary insights.
OK the Google probably isn't feeding me ads based on my emails. Yet. Google ads still have a long way to go. But as imperfect as they are, Google ads collected $9 BILLION from advertisers in the third quarter of 2009.
Think how much better it will get as the Google learns more about me. But online pubs and most other web sites ain't even in the game, 'cept for a few AdSense ads stuck in the corner.
What we NEED for 2021:
Google should team up with some pubs, analyze where their readers go within that publication, use that data to figure out each reader's interests, add its other creepy magic tricks, and feed the readers great ads that actually interest them.
The technology is there. Why aren't we? We just need some smart journalist to make it happen.
Who says there's no future in advertising for online journalism?
Oh yeah. Rupert Murdoch.
Well, he can't live forever.
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