Media Watching Whiplash

Wow, today’s NYT business section had three stories that together created first order whiplash regarding the state of the media industry. First, and by far the best done/most authoritative view, is this story about BusinessWeek. In a nutshell, things are grim for the venerable publication. Lost $41m last year, website traffic is up by mostly by gimmicks like slide shows, not a ton of interest, etc. On the positive side, they’re doing good work, they have a clear mission and outlets like The Economist have shown it can be done. Next up, a heartwarming story of a political journalist who made the leap from journalism to the corporate world, only to become sad and despondent and to arrive at events looking like he was under a black cloud. Now he’s back into covering politics again for a newspaper, and his usual sense of good cheer has returned. Finally, a look at how the shift to online advertising is helping mom and pop bloggers turn a buck and make a go of it. So on one page, the struggles of the old, a return to the fight and the triumph of the new.

Of course, the picture is considerably more nuanced. The bloggers at Sugar Media (and their backers) make considerably less money than the ink stained wretches at what remains of BW, thus partly the huge losses suffered by the pub. Second, although I read the blog article several times, nowhere did I see a reference to numbers that spelled out profit and loss, just a note that online ads in general were up. Well, okay then – I will hazard a guess that there is not much in terms of real money coming through just yet, or they’d be trumpeting it to high heaven. Finally, the column about getting back to journalism? It illuminates a near universal truth – do what you love.

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