Post 61:08 The other way user-generated content is killing quality journalism

This is NOT a rant about bloggers being sloppy journalists.

But I think user-generated content has a lot to do with the problems publishers like Fairfax are experiencing.

Here’s why.

In the good old days of journalism, publishers effectively operated three business. One was a journalism business, which kind of broke even from display ads. One was production/distribution business, that was essential to operate business number three, a directory services operation.

Directory services? WTF?

Well … I argue that classified advertising was basically a directory services business. Back before the Net and before other advances in publishing technology and distribution made niche publishing possible or profitable, large publishers had the means of production to collect and distribute information on a scale few could match.

Their ability to do so turned classified ads into a de-facto directory. If you wanted to buy or sell, there was one place to go.

Classified ads are, basically, user-generated content – AND THE USER PAID to have their content distributed.

Over the last ten years, we have seen classified revenue disperse into many different sorts of directory services. One, Google, has even taken its role as a directory and done radical things with it. Users still generate their content. But they pay different people for it and newspapers have lost their share.

This is why, IMHO, user-generated content is killing journalism. Blogs etc are eroding audiences, no doubt. But the proflieration of directory services and the production/distribution mechanisms that enable their rise is the thing that is really killing newspaper revenues and therefore putting pressure on journo headcounts.

Okay … amatuer economics session over!


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