Aspen Ideas Festival—The Founding Fathers of Blogging Discuss the End of Media




imagesI am at an early morning session where Jason Calacanis, CEO of mahalo.com, Nick Denton of Gawker, and Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine and the New York Daily News, discuss the challenges of printed media’s transition to online digital media. This topic and Twitter are big themes at this year’s Ideas Festival, with everyone from Steve Brill to Michael Kinsley, Norman Pearlstine and Katharine Weymouth discussing the former and Peter Hirshberg driving an army of Tweeters at #AIF09 to develop a use case for the latter.

What amazes me is that the discussion on the demise of the traditional media model amounts to a collective shrugging of the shoulders by these experts.  Given that the business model for traditional newspapers is so broken, the disagreements as to the way forward run very deep.

Some of the suggestions in this morning’s breakfast discussion include that every print article should disclose  metrics as to how many people have read it in order to establish popularity benchmarks—this becomes a way of judging market reach as well.  Risk: ‘The New York Times could become the Paris Hilton Times’.  This tension between the eroding credibility and gravitas of the “traditional press” and the “deep but unverified assertions” of many blogs is at the heart of the problem.  Building a business model that scales to capture the high ground of credibility at a large scale online is in the process of evolving.  100-journalist strong online media news organizations are now thriving (meaning profitable), per the panelists.

Chaos currently reigns. Jeff Jarvis recommends reading Clay Shirky’s Thinking the Unthinkable.

Commenting on Twitter— the speakers highlighted the asymmetry of Twitter between The Followed and Followers. Finally the discussion has turned to the fact that Twitter makes no money.  The speakers believe that the Twitter business model will turn into search-based advertising and feel that Twitter is so revolutionary that the successful business model for Twitter is at hand.

I’ve been a Twitter skeptic but am starting to see it as a useful public utility for crisis situations and spontaneous viral group eruptions (from the incipient Iranian revolution to the Aspen Ideas Festival).

Follow me on Twitter @plevensohn and check out #AIF09 in the Twitter stream to see what is going on at the Aspen Ideas Festival in real time.

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