A confession

Good on Burl Osborn, former publisher of the Dallas Morning News and chairman of the Associated Press, for acknowledging newspapers’ missed chance: “”Now the consumers have taken charge — they decide what news is. Monopoly power vanished. The existence of a competitive marketplace is permanent. And we should have known and we should have anticipated that.”

  • As is normal for newspaper folk, Osborn’s analysis is simplistic. There still remain many opportunities for creating and exploiting profitable news monopolies. The difference is the scale of the available monopolies. Newspapers enjoyed monopolies in the production and delivery of virtually *all* news within their geographically defined markets, in the future, news monopolies will be defined by communities of interest. Any specific geography will be served by many co-present news monopolies, oligarchies, etc. Thus, in one geography, you’re likely to have one organization that is the leading provider of “local” news, another (probably remote) that serves the news needs of criminal lawyers, another that dominates in providing news for farmers, another that dominates in providing news for lovers of opera, etc…. If each news organization or news bureau focuses on what it does best and “links to the rest,” we’ll find that many of the better run and more tightly focused of them will grow to dominate in their fields or specialties. Thus, we’ll have monopolies — but they will be monopolies within “communities of interest,” not geographic communities.

    bob wyman

    • Bob,
      I do not think we will have monopolies. They were supported before by the economics of being the only guy in town who could afford to own the press. As Shirky points out, when we all got presses, the advantage of owning a press declined to zero; indeed, the cost structure of the production and distribution infrastructure becomes an unbearable cost burden. And once we all have presses, there will be many competitors – and complementary members of news ecosystems – covering many geographies and interests. But monopolies? They’re a thing of the past. As are the economics that enabled newspapers to charge too much for inefficient ads. And a good thing.

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    the above is a suggestion i made to mr. jarvis when his publisher was having thoughts about the title of his book, recall?

    seen google today?

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      oops, wordpress software is NOT morse code friendly- let’s try it again…

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  • Alex

    Sure wish Burl Osborne listened better when his own Web employees at the Dallas Morning News told him this about 10 years ago. SOME newspaper executives did see what was happening and did agitate for substantial changes at the time. But there’s something about 30% profit margins that make it hard to see clearly sometimes.

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