Another Sunday, another rant from Henry Porter against Google. This time he tells us:
“The crisis in local news is not just about “the business model”, a phrase I am coming to loathe. It is about the fabric of a society and the careers that grew out of local journalism and have made so many contributions both to journalism and national life. This is something that new companies such as Google, with all their wealth and lack of obligation to anything beyond their own exhilarated sense of entitlement, will never understand. Why would they when they can sell advertising around journalism that has been provided for free by increasingly desperate newspapers?”
Projecting much? Is it not the old media the one that has an “exhilarated sense of entitlement” that prompts them to bemoan their loss of prominence with the public? People vote with their feet (or more accurately, with their clicks), and if some local newspaper does not fulfil those functions, then it will disappear.
I’m pretty good at stating the bleeding obvious, but this has to be repeated. We are currently undergoing a shift in media consumption of cataclysmic proportions, the lines are being drawn between what Lessig calls the Read-Only and Read/Write cultures (RO and RW respectively). As the advertising well dries up, the old RO media is left hurt and bewildered, wondering where have all the punters gone. Then they see clips of Susan Boyle on YouTube accumulating 100 million views, and it dawns on them. YouTube and Google have stolen all of the viewers! The parasites do not create anything, yet profit handsomely from stolen content. They try to negotiate, but Google is not budging as it has the upper hand. Then they talk about lost profit, and expect some form of compensation. Soon there will be talk of yet more legal action.
The problem for the RO crowd is that they have it completely backwards. In the age before YouTube, Susan Boyle would have been viewed only by those who actually watched the show (just over 8 million UK viewers). It would have been a water-cooler moment, with people commenting on it. But the fact that it was posted on YouTube and went viral made it a global story, it enhanced the ratings for the show, and in general enhanced ITV’s position with advertisers. But all that the RO crowd can think of is loss revenue from those 100 million clicks.
Here is another prediction: there will be several lawsuits until the dust settles and licensing arrangements are worked out. What is more likely is that media ownership will undergo a major shift, and there will be several RO and RW hybrids emerging from it.
As a card-carrying member of the RW crowd, I cannot help but feel some form of vindication after what has been happening in recent months.