Ben Thompson’s Stratechery is a great example of the new writing model. It is one-person, sustainable blogging. It is high-quality stuff and that is the differentiator. I was reading some of his stuff while thinking of how CUSA Report and Mean Green Nation will fit into the next year without sports.
I re-read this piece about the local news business model.
I think it’s worth expounding on that point. What most, including Rutenberg, fail to understand about newspapers is that it is not simply the business model that is obsolete: rather, everything is obsolete. Most local newspapers are simply not worth saving, not because local news isn’t valuable, but rather because everything else in your typical local newspaper is worthless (from a business perspective). That is why I was careful in my wording: subscriptions will not save newspapers, but they just might save local news, and the sooner that distinction is made the better.
My problem with newspapers has always been that the underlying business was always pretty static. There was no innovation or forward momentum. It makes sense, I suppose, as the newspaper business was ridiculously profitable for so long that rocking the boat was not welcome.
That disruption came from other industries and blindsided a lot of the companies. Still, there were something like 20 years of warning before it became obvious that the model was not sustainable. I have little sympathy for the companies that are driving into a ditch. I do have concern for all that will be lost.
The answer is a new model:
This last point is at the crux of why many ad-based newspapers will find it all but impossible to switch to a real subscription business model. When asking people to pay, quality matters far more than quantity, and the ratio matters: a publication with 1 valuable article a day about a well-defined topic will more easily earn subscriptions than one with 3 valuable articles and 20 worthless ones covering a variety of subjects. Yet all too many local newspapers, built for an ad-based business model that calls for daily content to wrap around ads, spend their limited resources churning out daily filler even though those ads no longer exist.
Local news at the moment is filled with dreck. It is hastily-written, lacks depth, and built for clicks (click-bait) rather than for deep dissection.
Quality always wins out.