The newspapers, led by Dean Singleton’s MediaNews Group, are effectively punting on the opportunity to establish themselves as the dominant local source for online news, information, and advertising services. Since they are already the dominant players in the offline world, to essentially agree to go halves with Yahoo in markets they once owned is a striking admission of weakness.
Yahoo, for its part, once looked ready to make a real foray into the journalism business, hiring a strong management team for Yahoo News and bringing on a few high-profile reporters, like Kevin Sites and Richard Bangs. While this was always a delicate strategy that tried to balance aggregation with original content creation, this week’s deal seems like a clear retreat from journalism – and an admission of weakness from Yahoo, too, as it struggles in the face of Google’s superior technology.
It is self-serving for me to say all this, since I’m building a business, NewWest.Net, based on original local journalism. Personally, I’d rather see Yahoo teaming up with small publishers and helping to underwrite a new, Web-centric, participatory form of journalism, one that breaks away from the aging, print-based formulas of old-line newspapers.
Weber is the all-too-rare journalistic entrepreneur who sees the opportunities and is grabbing them — a Hearst-Pulitzer-McCormick for our age and our media. We need more like him. That, by the way, is just why I’m teaching a course in journalistic entrepreneurship at CUNY. [Weber: This means you’re speaking to my class!]