What price quality?

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The Washington Post, one of the most influential publications in the world with a track record of quality journalism and 47 Pulitzer Prizes, is worth $250 million. Tumblr, the microblogging site on which users republish other people’s mildly amusing pictures and vast amounts of pornography, went for $1.1 billion. Price is not the same as value.

Simon Allison in his Daily Maverick ‘First Thing‘ newsletter.

‘Journalism is dead. Long live Journalism!’

‘It would be easy to suggest that the press believes its audience to be stupid, but that implies a level of arrogance that may not be deserved. It’s simply a matter of fact that any “elite” believes its existence necessary, because those not so fortunate as to be a part of the elite need them. This is fundamental colonialism, and it is at the heart of today’s “second Gutenberg moment,” for the masses are storming the bastille of authority that is based on protected knowledge.’

So writes Terry Heaton in the latest issue of The Digital Journalist.  I found Heaton’s references to colonialism – albeit a new form – quite thought-provoking, particularly his discussion around who should now define ‘the sphere of legitimate debate’. Definitely worth a read.

Dirck Halstead’s editorial piece, ‘The Time for Triage‘, as well as a few of the other essays, argues for the end of the printed edition. The motivation: ‘Our concern is in trying to save journalism. We don’t care about what form that content comes in.’

I buy into his reasoning totally (though the romantic in me mourns, of course): ‘The act of printing a newspaper or magazine dictates that 80 percent of revenue goes to just the printing and distribution. Actual production of content accounts for less than 20 percent of the budget. But at the end of the day, it is only the content that is relevant. Yet, that 20 percent is the only area that can be cut to compensate for losses in circulation and advertising…The future, if there is one for those content providers, exists solely online. But as long as publishers continue to try to save their print product, they are unable to give their new online editions the financial support they need… In stark terms, from a business point of view, if the brand is the name of the company, anything that threatens that brand must be eliminated. Print editions are essentially a conflict of interest when trying to build and position the online editions.’

But, but, but…

What of Africa? All these theories are based on an assumption of cheap available speedy broadband connection. How does any of this apply when we don’t have that?

I would argue that the logic still applies, though it might show a different face here. That the ‘online’ distribution will potentially be by cellphone. That ‘the sphere of legitimate debate’ was never as well defined in much of Africa anyway, and certainly very rarely by the Fourth Estate.

As another writer noted: ‘Journalism is dead. Long live journalism!’