Monday, July 13, 2009

Web and print journalism: Curiouser and curiouser

By now everyone knows that print journalism is in serious trouble. By "everyone knows" I mean "the story has been aired widely enough that it's time to file it away under a shorthand version and move on to something else." Might or might not mean it's actually the case.

Enter, which looks like a typical case of new media uprooting the old. Founded by ex-print journalists, it is now a go-to place for anyone who wants to find out lots and lots and lots of the minutiae of Washington politics. It came to public notice during the 2008 election but has since carved out a niche, with more White House reporters (8) than any other single organization.

As a business, it is more or less at break-even, not bad for such a young startup in an inherently cut-throat field. The punchline? About half its revenue comes from its print edition. Without it, Politico would be losing fairly serious money.

Folks, I'll admit I really don't know what to make of all this. On the one hand, pushing bits over the internet has got to be much, much cheaper than putting ink on paper and distributing the paper, even over a geographically small area. So I would tend to expect a natural evolution from print toward bits with -- and this is where I beat my not-so-disruptive technology drum yet again -- largely the same structures forming online as off, and largely the same players.

On the other hand, are the facts. The facts (in my reading, at least) bear out the not-so-disruptive part nicely. The print-to-bits part, however, seems to be going remarkably slowly, even backsliding in some instances (Politico and books published from blogs, for example). Kindle does not seem to have taken the world by storm, yet.

The obvious next step is to try to quantify all this. How much money is going to bits and print, respectively as the years go on? The analyses are out there, doubtless. Perhaps Alpha can turn them up?

1 comment:

David Hull said...

Note to self: Kindle had come along since then. Magazines are still around. And books. I seldom find myself reading a print book.