Peter Osnos at the Daily Beast just wrote an article with a very eye-catching headline: "The Scrappy Entrepreneurs Who Will Save The Media." But after looking at the actual ideas of these "scrappy" entrepreneurs, I worry that the media is in even more trouble than we thought.
1. Buy newspapers out for peanuts; relaunch as public services. Osnos points to a blog post proposing that Minnesota Public Radio buy out the Minneapolis Star Tribune and slowly merge with it.
Me: Sure, maybe this will have to be done. But this is no all-encompassing "save" for journalism. If all of the traditional media became like public radio or PBS, it would be resigning itself to serving only a very specific and limited audience. Obviously, public media can work on a mass scale, as it does in many other countries. But those media sources also have a lack of competition. Many entrepreneurs I'm sure are hoping that the American media does not go that way, and that there are still many profit opportunities to be had.
2. Revenue-sharing. This is the Journalism Online, Inc. model, read about it here. There's definitely some potential here, and subscriptions have worked well for sites like the Wall Street Journal's site. I'm sure many outlets will find success with this model. But again--is this a savior? There will always be somebody putting up news and analysis for free on the Internet, and so subscription-based models will always have that significant strike against them.
3. New non-profits. Osnos points to the Center for Public Integrity, MinnPost, and ProPublica. That's all well and good, but see my response to number 1--I'm skeptical that, at least in the US, we can ever be predominantly reliant on non-profit media sources.
I criticize just to get the idea ball rolling. Scrappy entrepreneurs--surely we can do better than this?