This week’s NY Observer cover story on (what else?!) the future of news is an excellent must-read. Even so, it has driven me to full-on rant mode on a particular topic: ” business models” for news. As in, “there must be a new ‘business model’, because nothing so far has worked.” As in, Pony Theory: “if it smells like horse crap and looks like horse crap, there must be a pony in here!!” As in, “it’s all about the platform! Print guys said they had a unique product until it became clear that the web would smush them and then the web turned out to have no advertising model so it must now be all about mobile!” How positively post-modern!
Are you people high?
As in–and this, from Larry Kramer, is my favorite–if we try everything, SOMETHING will work:
Let’s stop arguing over whether there is enough advertising to support this, or if there needs to be other ways people pay for content. There are a huge number of alternatives and we just need to do what every business does: Test each possible method. Something will work.
Wow! Why didn’t I think of that? MONKEYS! LISTEN UP! MOUNT YOUR TYPEWRITERS!! GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL DUE MONDAY!! OH, QUIT YOUR BITCHING. IT ONLY HAS TO BE IN DRAFT FORM!! SHUT UP OR I’LL START CHARGING FOR THE BANANAS IN THE KITCHEN.
I wish I had ol’ Larry on my team back at the office! Talk about confidence inspiring!!!
Yes, he really wrote that. Larry, it seems, is a Pony Theorist. One of my favorite CEOs, when he had done a particularly risky reorg of his sales team, said “sales is fixed because it has to be fixed.” Difference was, he was being ironic. Pony theorists are devoid of irony. That is among the character defects which make pony theorists very, very dangerous.
No, wait, Larry’s only my second favorite. My *real* favorite is when journalism professors write–without a hint of irony– about “recruiting MBA students to work on new business models.” I must read something along these lines at least twice a week. Trust me: if a surfeit of underemployed pre-MBAs were the solution to our business challenges, universal health care would be free and Hummers would get 200 miles (city) on a gallon of bong water. YOU, MBA STUDENT, LOOK ALIVE! I DON’T WANNA HEAR A PEEP FROM YOU UNTIL YOU’VE DIVIDED EVERY NUMBER BY EVERY OTHER NUMBER! ISN’T THAT WHAT YOU BUSINESS DROIDS DO?!
I cannot prove it, but I would bet serious coin on the following proposition: the more a writer uses the term “business model,” the less likely it is that said writer has spent time anywhere near a successful business.
There’s nothing mystical about “business models.” Costs and expenses can occupy a maximum of 100% of revenue unless somebody is investing in or otherwise subsidizing the enterprise. Most often, a writer uttering “business model,” places “partnership” in the same graff. The problem with partnerships is that they involve partners. Partners like to get paid, and, remember the part about it all having to add up to 100 at the end of the metaphorical day.
What if–and I’m just speculating–there isno viable b-b-b-bbusiness model for news? Or at least for serious journalism? What then? What if it’s really all poo and no pony?