Harder Than Finding a Cure for Cancer?
Over an introductory lunch last week with the young founder of Shoestring Magazine (a darling start-up enterprise devoted to supporting champagne tastes on beer budgets), I was impressed with her realistic business model. Given the continued demise of the printed word in every form (see The Globe plans to cut staff in newsroom; Gannett to furlough workers for a week; Detroit papers halting delivery to four days a week; The Seattle Post-Intelligencer and The Rocky Mountain News warning of shut downs), her online focus and well thought out rationale seemed a strategic and sensible approach.
Throughout our lunch, it seemed that the general topic of conversation was the state of the media which, understandably, made us depressed. So after ordering stiff drinks (kidding!), the discussion took a more logical turn as we contemplated why none of these outlets can figure out how to transfer their business model into the online space. After all, we reasoned, the information is the same—actually better, as it can be even more current. In an age where the demise of print media is widespread and not even the venerable New York Times is being spared, does content really lose its value? Or, in the end, does the perceived value of information come down to the ‘tangibility’ of the actual paper, rather than the information that lies therein? Ultimately, it came down to the question: “With all of these really smart people being affected, why can’t anyone figure out how to make money online?”
Since I don’t have three girlfriends and 30 minutes of commercial-free TV to ponder this query a la Carrie Bradshaw, I’m not going to even make an attempt. However, over lunch, we did come to one hard and fast determination. This dilemma appears so hard to crack, if ever a mortal human is able to solve this problem, we reasoned it would be as groundbreaking as finding a cure for cancer. Saving the news industry, as compared to saving human lives is, admittedly, trite. But as a metaphor for how the media will stay in good health as the number of men and women who dedicate their lives to meaningful journalism declines due to the perceived lack of value of their work in the free market, well, I can’t help but consider how that will affect all of us in ensuring unbiased and investigative reporting—essential for the health of any democracy and, I would argue, as important as finding a cure for cancer.
Posted by Marlo