A Boon For Blogs?

Ezra digests the news over the NYT paywall:

Already, much of what blogs do is summarize, quote or otherwise relay information that's tucked inside a long newspaper story that busy readers don't have time to find or read. This will increase that market: A blogger with a few subscriptions can distill the information from the newspapers that readers don't have subscriptions to. Bloggers move from providing more efficient information to offering access to information. A black market for news, in a sense. Newspaper revenue might go up under this strategy, but so, I'd guess, will the relative market share of big blogs that are good at aggregation.

I've been doing this for a long while and the only thing I can say about the future of the web and journalism is: I don't know.

I can see exactly why big news organizations need to have some subscription money to survive in the short run; I can see why the Napster era of online journalism may be coming to an end. At the same time, I believe that these media bosses haven't quite absorbed the full implications of what the web has done.

They are having a hell of a time monetizing it because it is too vast, too borderless, too fluid to carve out property on it. It's like trying to make a profit in a communist state. And yet its essential nature - its open source, link-friendly, conversation of humankind democratic spirit is what makes it different from the past - and so appealing to libertarian-inclined chaps like myself. Sealing an online product off from the core online experience seems to me to be a medium at war with itself and a business not fully aware of the actual product it is creating.

I feel optimistic about the Dish's long term future (unless I keel over from exhaustion), because we've tried to take advantage of this new dimension, by being a totally open source portal, a hub, a node of conversation and argument. This brings in readers and advertizers. Are the advertizers enough to finance a news organization? Not yet, and maybe never. But are they enough to finance a very small operation with a tiny staff and little overhead? You bet.

Moreover, I suspect Ezra's right and the NYT's move makes this more valuable and profitable. The NYT may be smart in doing what it's doing, and I love its website, but it may lead to even greater traffic for blogs that can merely cite or summarize NYT pieces and have small excerpts as fair use as well. These quick digests of the best of the NYT wouldn't appeal to many intelligent and affluent readers, but they might be a very attractive feature for those who want to know what is important in the NYT but not want to spend money finding it for themselves.

But I don't know. My grand philosophy on all this is Oakeshottian: the pursuit of intimations. I just try to figure out day by day what this new medium is trying to teach me, as far as journalism is concerned, keep experimenting, and keep blogging. I am lucky enough to leave the headache of monetizing it to others. I'm just fascinated by the ride, and more fascinated because I really have no idea where it goes next.