Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The New Media Is Not Free

Newspapers and magazines traditionally have had three revenue sources: newsstand sales, subscriptions and advertising. The new business model relies only on the last of these. That makes for a wobbly stool even when the one leg is strong. When it weakens as countless publishers have seen happen as a result of the recession the stool can't possibly stand.

For most of the time I've lived in a rural county with a population of about 13,000 there was only a small time newspaper that filtered the news according to political correctness and 'official' approval. Much of the deep news was by word of mouth with a lot of rumors, many of which were probably true. Over the last few years a new kid on the news block, a hyperlocal internet site showed up and slowly became a place where folks could have a voice through editorials, letters to editor and comments. That included myself whenever I felt I had something to contribute.

The site keeper, Kim, posted not only the local fluff pieces but also delved into the local political scene as had never been done before. Bringing a video camera into county commission and school board meetings and covering the 'public servants'  and elections kept those people a little bit more on their toes.  It could be argued that the Wire contributed to the defeat of the incumbent sheriff last month, not from playing favorites but just from reporting some of the bizarre goings on in that department and allowing the public to have their say, which often was very lively.

Unfortunately, Kim, citing some health issues, a failing economy and a lack of advertising that doesn't pay the bills, made the decision to suspend publication.  As a one woman show, it has taken its toll. This will make some very happy as they will not face the scrutiny of an open press. For the rest of us, it's a big loss.

I don't think there's anyone to pick up where she's leaving off and as for the main reason; "It's the economy stupid."

This same local internet publishing scenario is being played out everywhere, especially where the population and money are slim. Watchdogs for the public are very far down on the list for funding.

We will miss our open forum.