Meet the pro
: Bill Grueskin, managing editor of WSJ.com, is one of the savviest and nicest and also most unsung guys in online news. He and I happened upon each other after I messed up a WSJ.com link, as I remember; we ended up having lunch (that’s what media guys do; it’s how we link), and quickly saw that we see eye-to-eye. But Bill doesn’t blog (hint, hint) or do the panel circuit (he’s the smart one) and so we don’t hear enough from him and of his experience. Jay Rosen rectifies that with a great interview. Some of the bonnier mots:
: They talk about WSJ.com getting away with actually charging consumers for content online. Bill says:
Well, information wants to be free, as the saying goes. But the saying goes further than that, it turns out.
Here’s the whole quote, from Stewart Brand’s book, The Media Lab: Inventing the Future at MIT :
Information wants to be free. Information also wants to be expensive. Information wants to be free because it has become so cheap to distribute, copy, and recombine—too cheap to meter. It wants to be expensive because it can be immeasurably valuable to the recipient. That tension will not go away. It leads to endless wrenching debate about price, copyright, ‘intellectual property’, the moral rightness of casual distribution, because each round of new devices makes the tension worse, not better.
It’s hard to believe those words were published nearly two decades ago, because they so closely capture the essence of today’s argument….
I would say that the search for a single answer–paid vs. free–is as fruitless as a blogger vs journalist argument. You can be successful either way. Ultimately, it comes down to how you see your role in the media universe.
: Jay says, in a throwaway line that will live forever:
Maybe we need a new “law” of information. Lola’s law. It states that information gets what information wants.
: Bill on the flurry of old/new-media deals lately (Dow Jones and Marketwatch, Washington Post and Slate, NY Times and About):
Each deal shows that we are rethinking what it means to be a media company, with a strong newspaper component, in a digital age….
What I think is changing is that for years, the debate was largely about distribution of content; that is, how do we get our stories in front of readers and do it in a way that brings in money and doesn’t upset traditional revenue models? With these deals in hand, I think we are going to see the debate go beyond distribution and on to the content itself — how do we report the news so it works online?
And not a nanosecond too soon.
: Bill on running a new-media product tethered to old-media, each with great value that cannot be overlooked by the other:
The “balancing act” approach disappoints new online readers and fails to excite print readers making the transition. So you have to come up with a new language of journalism, with traditional roots in our standards, but that treats online like the revolutionary medium that it is. And then you have to hammer it home with your staff.
: Bill on MSM blogs:
Lately, a number of newsmagazine and newspaper sites have started blogs. The results, especially in bigger publications, are often dreadful. Many mainstream-media blogs serve as repositories for the journalistic detritus that wasnít good enough for the print edition. They manage to combine the worst of both worlds: Hemmed in by tradition, they lack the candor and point of view that distinguishes good blogs. Bereft of good material, they lack the depth and quality of print journalism.
: These interviews are among what Rosen does best. Hope he does more.