My comment at on an article on Josh Ellis’s blog:
I agree with you that Godin’s wrong about the cost of reporting. I’d expect reporters salaries to the biggest cost in running a paper. But I disagree with this bit: “What newspapers have that blogs don’t — and can’t, and won’t for the foreseeable future — is full-time staff, who are paid a (presumably) living wage to do the kind of in-depth work that blogs don’t, can’t, and won’t for the foreseeable future.”
I’m not so pessimistic about the possibility of online media to pay full time staff. This is already happening a few outlets – such as Wired’s blogs, and Gawker Media for example. There’s not really any reason that professional, paid journalism has to come from newspapers, except that they have money. But their money has been quickly vanishing and moving online (online advertising has many benefits over other forms of advertising). Like Godin pointed out, the establishment media hasn’t even been doing a good job lately.
So better questions are: how can established media companies profitably move online and still do quality journalism, and can upstart online media companies make enough money to pay for quality journalism? How can upstart media companies develop a name for themselves so that sources return their calls? These aren’t easy questions, but I don’t think clinging to print media is the answer to any of them.
The two big alt weeklies here in Portland have high quality online presences and are well poised to make good money online. They have competition from various local blogs that are making money and in some cases doing serious work. For example, bikeportland.org. They’re a niche site, obviously, but have done a remarkable job covering local transportation issues. I see a bright future for journalism in Portland, even if it’s not in print.
Other communities might not be so lucky, so here’s another question: what if there’s not money for quality local online journalism in your community?