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Video: Jeff Jarvis On What Should Media Do

Bear with me here on my latest short video, because while it's not tech news per se, it's about tech news. As in, what's the business model for online sites in an age where ad revenues are declining but demand for killer content is higher than ever? That's the discussion I had with Jeff Jarvis, author of "What Would Google Do?," journalism professor, and Buzzmachine blogger. Click on to see the video.
Bear with me here on my latest short video, because while it's not tech news per se, it's about tech news. As in, what's the business model for online sites in an age where ad revenues are declining but demand for killer content is higher than ever? That's the discussion I had with Jeff Jarvis, author of "What Would Google Do?," journalism professor, and Buzzmachine blogger. Click on to see the video.I connected with Jeff at the New York City leg of CloudForce, Saleforce.com's tenth anniversary victory lap. Interestingly, his point about where media organizations are headed dovetails with the direction of Salesforce.com, which is leading the charge of computing into the cloud.

Consider his response to my question about how media sites can make money. (I actually phrased it a tad more negatively, wondering how anyone can make a buck in a world where traditional news organizations have been disintermediated, curb-kicked-style, by the Web.)

Replied Jarvis: "There's revenue to be had; it's a different structure of revenue. I think what we're going to see in media is networks -- clouds of independent agents brought together. He who comes in and give order to that whole, can make money there."

To gently disagree with a guy who was very charming and with whom I had a really interesting chat, I'd say that I think such networks might work in exceptional cases, but they're not easily duplicatable, nor scaleable. As in, small groups of laid-off newspaper journalists can band together and start local-news-oriented sites -- such as MinnPost.com -- but they don't really replace the corpus of content available in the heyday of the old-fashioned newspaper. Or maybe they do, at least in an online sort of way. Or, just get used to it. (That's an apropos closing phrase for any discussion about the Web, isn't it?)

OK, but what about technology news, which is what I do for a living and what you, dear reader, are presumably interested in reading right now. (Please bear with me for a little bit longer, before you go off and read said tech news.)

Clearly, in this arena we're in a state of flux, too, as we move from commodity news (every site competing for page views with similar stories about the same stuff) to a deeper-dive model where analysis, personality, perspective, and deep knowledge are the draws that bring readers back for more.

Jarvis spoke to this issue, from his perspective as a journalism professor: "I think that readers were tired of being served by one-size-fits-all mass products. Instead, I think that now we can go to very targeted things. Then the next argument is, 'Oh, my God, that's confusing.' Well, that's an opportunity for curators and aggregators to find the best stuff."

Exactly, at least in the sense that I believe narrowcasting -- delivering deep, topic-oriented content to finely parsed audiences -- is where we're ultimately headed. This is McLuhanesque in the sense that all mediums must ultimately drive towards what their form demands. And the form of the Web, with its infinite number of available channels, demands gazillions of finely honed sites, catering to every need from networking to knitting.

But enough from me. Please watch my three-minute chat with Jeff Jarvis:

What's your take? Let me know, by leaving a comment below or e-mailing me directly at [email protected].

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Alex Wolfe is editor-in-chief of InformationWeek.com.

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