News would be profitable even if all facts became free 5/29/08Posted by Steve Boriss in FreeNews.
The question just about everyone in news asks these days is how can they possibly make money when so much is available free on the Internet. It’s a question that came up when All Things Digital’s Kara Swisher interviewed Thomson Reuters’ CEO Tom Glocer. He said that if you can give people exactly what they are looking for, exactly how they want it, they’ll actually pay more to get less information.
If you think Mr. Glocer is speaking in platitudes, not profundities, just think about it. For decades, struggling Old Media (newspapers and broadcast TV) have not at all been about giving audiences exactly what they are looking for, exactly how they want it. Instead, they have offered one-size-fits-all news (a.k.a. “the national conversation”) in a dull, authoritative style. By contrast, more commercially successful cable TV news has been giving more people exactly what they want (left CNN vs. right FOX, restrained vs. “hot” political talk, general vs. business news channels) in a variety of styles (crusaders Olbermann and O’Reilly, populist Dobbs, sensationalists Van Susteren and Grace). Now, think about the unlimited possibilities the Internet offers to give even smaller subsegments of the population exactly what they are looking for, exactly how they want it. Profits in the future of news will be limited not by free facts, but by free thinking.