The ongoing death of newspapers is not about changes in journalism, or the need for them. It is about a business model that has ceased to be relevant in the face of present technology. It used to be a poorly kept secret, but amid a vast array of competing histories, it’s been forgotten like last year’s canceled NBC sitcoms: What made newspapers successful was never the news. Newspapers provided vital services in people’s lives: their connections with their hometown, the notices of local events, the daily topics of conversation, the latest thoughts hovering over Snoopy’s head as he snored atop his doghouse. Many of these services were syndicated, and those that were not - like the classified ads - were intensely well managed. The front page, and the headlines therein, were merely the container. News has always been a loss leader; it’s the thing publishers provide to make the real products they used to sell timely, interesting and competitive. It’s literally the sugar coating.
In the age of tight budgets and rallying cries for fiscal conservatism, public media has not fared well. During the spring and summer budget debates, one program facing the chopping block was the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the entity which supports National Public Radio and PBS. While federal funds for public media remain safe for the time being, the truth is that public media have already seen large cuts in government spending. In the past four years, 24 states have either significantly decreased or zeroed-out contributions to local media. Read more.
Pool and his partner Henry Ferry are doing more with $500 Samsung Galaxy S II phones on Sprint’s 4G Network than TV networks can muster with thousands of dollars of gear, satellite trucks, pretty anchors, and helicopters. CBS News’s UStream, for example, offers an unfiltered feed from its eye in the sky. But the CBS feed has often felt like a mere complement to Pool’s on-the-ground coverage. (Plus, Pool and Ferry hope to get flying video drones that would augment their coverage—read on). On Nov. 17th, for example, when Pool was among thousands who first gathered at Foley Square in Manhattan then walked over the Brooklyn Bridge, the helicopter pilot on the CBS Ustream searched for the right shot, panned around the city randomly, and talked to a person presumably back in some studio about his wife’s prowess for holiday tree decorating.
Ferry uses the word “startup” to describe The Other 99. He sees it as not merely a project, but a business. And they already have an office, about a 50-square-foot space that they rent for just over $1,000 per month at wework, a co-working space in SoHo.