Media wasteland

17 Dec

Much ado has been made in the last few years about how print media is dying. It is pretty obvious why this is case. Practically everyone my age — and a good amount of people older than I am — want to get their news, analysis, gossip and so forth online. I'm probably the only one of my peers who gets home delivery of the print edition of the New York Times, and I will be the first admit that it's more about the chic than because that's how I legitimately prefer to read it. So let's assume that everyone will be phasing out print over the next decade or so. What then?
Some time during when I was in college, online advertising went from a worthless gimmick to a legitimate IT sub-field with its own terminology, best practices, and assortment of job titles. “Web developer” might not have existed before 1998 or so, but “ad trafficker” and “online media planner” are even more recent. A pretty significant chunk of online firms expect to make most of their revenue from advertising. Setting aside companies like Facebook that were built from the ground up to take advantage of online ads, there's still a huge sector of old guard media outlets that are being forced to abandon the largely stable print medium that sustained them for a century and take the plunge into becoming a for-profit Internet news site.

So, when the economy crashed this year, ad revenue dried up. As legitimate as online advertising seems, it's still not that lucrative, and a downturn like this hits it hard. Even media outlets like Gawker that are built from the ground up on the Internet and have no print legacy have suffered. Layoffs abound.

The question I have is… who has the money? And if car companies are worth bailing out, what about media companies? Is there an economic situation that will allow for the continued existing of the sort of monolithic professional media production that existed for most of the 20th century, or is the smart money on getting used to the idea that the future is all about blogs and citizen journalism?