The Future of News Is Nonprofit

There is no future for profit-maximizing news outlets. None.

All of the discussions about the future of newspapers and journalism are never going to get anywhere until more people come to the realization that there is no future for profit-maximizing news outlets. There are simply too many media outlets, especially online, that are willing to produce and distribute quality news information either for free, or for prices and that will never lead to profitability, for profit-maximizing organizations to successful, and sustainably, compete with them. As time goes on, these media outlets will only continue to expand in number and audience, undercutting for-profit news outlets all the way.

The lack of a viable, profit-maximizing model for news outlets is probably obvious to most proprietors of media outlets. In the online world, for example, most full-time bloggers know they must rely on free content produced by readers (virtually every large blog already does this), procure alternative sources of income, and work ridiculously long hours (not to mention wonderful donations by readers!), just to scratch by.  As Yglesias writes, it is hard to compete with free:

The startup costs of a decent website are pretty small in the scheme of things. And there are lots of people and institutions-academics looking to bring their research to a wider public, think tanks and advocacy organizations looking to influence the public debate, corporations like Google looking to express their views on policy debates, students trying to get an edge in the job market, authors hoping to promote a book-with perfectly good incentives to run websites that don't aspire to maximize profits.(...)

[L]ots of people want to write about political issues for reasons that have nothing to do with profit-maximization. And my sense is that organizations are increasingly doing this. CAP/AF was a think tank early adopter in terms of building robust in-house new media capacity, but to the best of my knowledge just about every think tank and advocacy shop in town would like to get in on the action. And ultimately, a proliferation of content that's not supposed to make money is going to make it even harder than it already is for those trying to make profits to do so.

Chris Bowers was a full-time editor at MyDD from May 2004 until June 2007. Some of his projects have included the creation of the Liberal Blog Advertising Network, the first scientifically random poll of progressive netroots activists, the Use It Or Lose It campaign, the nation's most accurate forecast of Democratic house pickups in 2006, and the 2006 Googlebomb the Elections campaign.
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