There’s a tremendous outpouring in the comments as well as some catty ones there and on Valleywag..
She says she was fired because her column commanded low advertising rates. So reporters and writers out there: How’s your CPM doing?
Print media writers look askance at how ratings affect TV news, but in the digital economy, they face the prospect of eventually being tied to their advertising generating power, the almighty CPM, or advertising cost per thousand impressions.
I’ve done some rough calculating on my newspaper’s Web site and I don’t see any writers generating their salary in ad revenues from online. I think others are making similar calculations. On the other side, the same forces are seeing sports cherry-picked from newspapers for six figure salaries by ESPN.
Penelope Trunk; she’ll do fine. For hundreds of other journalists, the value placed on their work will be a bleak reality.
(One of my favorite blog posts by her is about the origin of her name, a “brand me” classic. Her Wikipedia entry, however, is over the top caustic, describing her as an “American idiot,” at least at the time of this writing.)
Paul Steiger’s been in journalism a wee bit longer than I have and his reflections on how newspapers have changed in 41 years is a fascinating read. Steiger is stepping down as managing editor of the Wall Street Journal.
His history of the last four decades of the newspaper industry might be summed up by this paragraph:
In some ways, what’s happening to the newspaper industry is a return to its past. Less than 50 years ago, American newspapers were in the main relatively small, narrowly profitable, family-owned, locally focused and hotly competitive.
… Or at least the locally focused and hotly competitive part.
He also says newspapers misplayed their online strategies:
A bigger problem was that newspapers often sought to copy fairly closely on the Web what they did in print, rather than offer new products taking full advantage of digitization. The most creative new products came mainly from enterprises with little connection to newspapers. And soon, if you named almost any bit of data you used to rely on papers for — sports scores, weather, stocks, movie times — there were Web sites offering more information faster, and free.
Pretty apt. Applying the precepts of one business to another is seldom a winning gambit, but that’s a fallacy we’ve yet to recognize in day-to-day practice.
On Thursday I hung out at the family business in North Carolina for a short while. It’s a custom injection molder (makes plastic stuff). As such, it makes parts and assembles products for a number of different customers. One of the more unusual products (at least for me) they have been making are the housings for the mirrors featured in the YouTube video below that are sold by this company.
I came and I thought, hey, this is kind of neat-o and it empowered me at first. I thought, “Awesome! They want my opinion! They listen!” and I offered it and the feedback was, “Great idea!” and I watched as you implemented it, then benefitted from it and I felt good. I was great at first, but then after a while, I started to feel a little dirty…a little used…a little like cheap labor, replacing people you probably laid off or decided to save money on not hiring because you were getting so much great value out of my time. Maybe it was because it seemed that you believed you could ‘tap’ my well of ideas or ‘pick my brain’ endlessly? Maybe it was because my generosity goes so far and you overstepped your bounds? Maybe it was because you had a chance to reward my efforts, but dropped me like a wet rag as soon as I asked?
Read her whole post and the comments, too.
Hunt’s post wasn’t particularly aimed at the media from what I could tell, but certainly Whiteside’s spin on it is. Whiteside asks:
Will crowdsourcing or sites using only content generated by users help to eliminate more paying jobs for those with journalism or media degrees?
Maybe, but the economic pressures for reducing the size of traditional newsrooms seems to have little to do with the trend toward user generated content or crowd-sourced journalism. Editors may be grasping at these as partial solutions for what is already happening, but they are not the root cause of sparser newsrooms.
Crowdsourcing or open-sourcing journalism has been one of those hot button topics of late 2006 and 2007. The term crowdsourcing seems to have become popular after a June 2006 article in Wired magazine. In journalism, we have ballyhooed efforts by Gannett and Assignment Zero.
At its most cynical, crowd-sourced journalism is a Wampus cat cross of utopian volunteer collective effort for good and a bean-counter’s vision of work at zero cost.
But as Tara Hunt’s post fleshes out, crowdsourcing is about the complicated relationships with the audience or user, and that — like most interpersonal relationships — is tricky. As she says, it’s about reciprocating. And in a journalism context — maybe any context — finding the proper reciprocity will be the difference between positive aid and feeling used.