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After Post-Print Era of Online News, Then What?

There is a bit of a dust-up at Jeff Jarvis’s Buzzmachine about GateHouse suing over its linking to GateHouse stories. Of course, this is a suit worth watching and discussing because if GateHouse wins, it would have major ramifications across the web.

Most of what is  being written at the Buzzmachine post is that the old media does not understand what the web is about. However, I was struck by this comment from John Duncan:

It is too early to say things like “this is what the web is about”. The ecosystem of the web is complicated and interdependent and if the ability to profit from an investment in generating original content disappears and a sub-species of news producers (albeit slightly dodo-ish) disappears, it is hard to tell whether that ultimately benefits users or not.

The principle that, if you spend money or effort generating content, you should enjoy exclusive rights to exploit that content for a period of time, exists to protect creativity not diminish it. And that principle is being violated by some of the more content rich aggregator sites.

Up to now the profits of print have subsidised news organizations online and allowed them to not worry too much about aggregation sites and what they do. It looked as if there would be enough pie for everyone, but it’s become obvious at last to newspapers that online revenue will not fund their journalism and that they have to start being more aggressive and smart online if they really don’t believe in print any more.

We are probably now entering the post-print era of online news. It’s not going to have the same ecosystem as the print era of online news. The content food chain that starts with professional media organizations is going to change. It is wrong therefore to assume that what works for everyone’s benefit now will necessarily work forever. Things change.

The Journalism that Matters (JTM) series of summits has been moving towards trying to understand this new news ecosystem for some time. This upcoming JTM event addresses the issue head-on:   “Adapting Journalism to the New News Ecology,” a three-day conference in St. Petersburg, Fla., to be held March 1-4, 2009. The cost of the event $350 is further testament that fewer things will be free.

Full disclosure: I have been an advisor to past JTM events, but have not been involved much in this one.

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