Billmon has a thoughtful piece on whether mainstream media could co-opt the blogosphere. Blogging from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, he is less than sanguine on blogging's chances of remaining an independent, free thinking phenomenon.
"Just the fact that blogging showed up on the agenda at Davos this year is probably a bad sign. I can't shake the suspicion that the golden age of blogging is almost over -- that the corporate machine is about to swallow it, digest it, and regurgitate it as bland, non-threatening pablum. Our brief Summer of Love may be nearing an end. . . ."The end, as he sees it, will come when quality news is priced far outside the pocketbook of the average consumer, so that the sources of information upon which blogging depends dry up.
"I can easily forsee a time when access to information of the quantity and quality of, say, the daily Reuters news feed will cost thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. Only large corporations and government agencies will be able to afford the price -- just as only a relative handful of financial institutions can now afford access to Bloomberg terminals."I have often wondered myself how long news outlets can continue to give their content away for free on the Net while relying on traditional revenue streams to keep them afloat. But I think a more likely outcome than the 'Bloomberg' model (which is not analogous because of the difference in both audience size and income) is one in which a 'quality' news media outlet charges a nominal fee (say, 25 cents/day?) - similar to the traditional 'daily' paper model we all grew up with.
The effect on blogs of nominal news pricing would be to segment blogs by subscription to the media sources they link to. For instance, if Billmon subscribes to Reuters, and publishes his fabulous pieces using Reuters material, then his readers will also have to subscribe to Reuters to read the source text. In essence, Billmon becomes a promoter for Reuters news services.
There is nothing inherently sinister about this. Billmon is merely endorsing the quality of the source by using it in his article. He also keeps Reuters on its toes because links from widely read bloggers like Billmon are free advertising. Thus, it behooves Reuters to keep their content quality high to ensure the stream of new, paid subscriptions which these links generate.
The rub comes if Billmon decides that he will accept commissions or other payments FROM Reuters for the linking. All of a sudden, Billmon is no longer an INDEPENDENT arbiter of news quality, but rather is now beholden to Reuters and therefore much less likely to criticize his media sugar daddy. Thus Billmon becomes co-opted by the corporate news media and yet another block in the pyramid (God forbid).
The 'Summer of Love' will end when the news outlets start charging nominal sums to their readers, and bloggers start accepting kickbacks for linking. Yet until that cold blast of reality hits, let's all continue enjoy the warmth while it lasts.
Dude, where's the bong?