Less than nothing

At the Overland blog, I wrote on the Fairfax job cuts, the crisis of journalism, and the (lack of) solidarity in the digital media industry.

The bundling of these services in a single package meant that unprofitable activities, like journalism, could be subsidised by profitable ones, like facilitating the sale of second-hand cars. People expected a newspaper to provide all these services, and so long as the newspapers remained profitable, their owners tolerated the delivery of social goods such as investigative journalism and informed scrutiny of state and corporate propaganda – albeit diluted by cultural bias and pressure from paymasters. But there was nothing natural or inevitable about this compromise. The notion that people used to be willing to pay for news, and now are not, is an oversimplification. The success of Seek, and the decline of Fairfax, shows what happens when these services can be ‘unbundled’, to use the ugly neologism. With the upset of the delicate balance of technological and economic forces that have sustained the newspaper for so long, its viability as a product has become increasingly uncertain. The means of production used to be printing press; now it’s the giant server farm. Google famously promises to ‘organise the world’s information’ – not to produce it.

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