I think it’s time that we can all agree that the news industry is failing. Hundreds of newspapers have declared bankruptcy and gone under in the past couple years — and thousands of Journalists are out of work. But I’m curious: what are all these journalists doing? Laying down and giving up? I’m wondering why I don’t see a flurry of journalistic startups.
The state of startups
Call it “Valley Culture” or however the hipsters wants to spin it — there is a definite attitude of Entrepreneurship in California. I’ve lived around it my whole life. People are itching to start companies so bad that they get VCs to give them extraordinary amounts of money for really dumb ideas. I mean, really dumb ideas. Ideas that never had a hope in the world of making money, let alone becoming popular.
My point being: if we can get VCs to put up millions of dollars for practically any idea, why don’t we see more lean journalistic startups? Nothing fancy, just some (good) reporters, editors, and a small syndication (web) team. Editors & reporters generally get paid shit, and you wouldn’t need more than 2-3 tech people to support a couple dozen reporters with today’s technology — so a few million would go a long way.
It’s not the news that’s dying, it’s the news organization
Increasingly I’ve been hearing the same mantra from smart people around the web: It’s not the news that’s the problem, it’s the newsroom. In any modern newspaper, the people producing content (editors & reporters) are a small fraction of the costs. One of my favorite quotes on the subject comes from Mr Gruber:
The question these companies should be asking is, “How do we keep reporting and publishing good content?” Instead, though, they’re asking “How do we keep making enough money to support our existing management and advertising divisions?” It’s dinosaurs and mammals.
The truth is, people are hungry for news. And there’s plenty of money to be made. I don’t see TechCrunch or Mashable hurting for money. And they’re out there just producing bottom-of-the-barrel reporting. Could you imagine how much money someone would make if they had a TechCrunch style news organization with real reporters? People might even start trusting them as a source of information.
So where are the startups?
Maybe it’s me, but the answer seems so clear in my head. We have thousands of unemployed journalists. Good journalists. We have VCs ready to hand out money for a shit sandwich. We have a proven business model. Why don’t I see a flurry of journalistic startups? Get rid of the cruft of the newsroom, give power to the reporters and content producers.
Stop trying trying to grasp onto idiotic ideas like “social news” or stabbing blindly at twitter in hopes of saving an archaic organizational structure. People aren’t buying printed newspapers? Stop printing them. People only want to read their news online? Let them read it online.
America needs to stop concentrating on how to save our dying industries and start concentrating on how to create the next booming industries. Isn’t that what the American dream is all about, anyways?