I've generally liked the NPR program On the Media, so I was extremely disappointed by Bob Garfield's pointless rant in the Guardian. The piece, sadly titled, "Comment is free," was published on March 27 so it couldn't possibly be an April fools stunt. Garfield displayed a knowledge of one side of the (old) news industry but showed an ignorance of the landscape and the history of media, including the recent history of news media.
Among other things, Garfield referred to those who read news for free as "looters" and continues with:
"Here's all you need to know. Lucrative classified advertising has disappeared, thanks to Craigslist, and display advertising rates online are extremely low. That's thanks to the pesky law of supply and demand: there's an infinite amount of online content, and therefore an infinite amount of advertising inventory, and therefore prices are driven inexorably downward.
The resulting revenue can't sustain robust news organizations. The revenue can't even sustain feeble news organizations."
The above quote almost speaks for itself. Garfield says that there's an "infinite amount of online content" but somehow believes that the news industry, as a whole, is in danger.
He conveniently doesn't mention that the organization he works for, National Public Radio, has always been listener-supported (plus a small contribution from the government). Fortunately, even if all other news organizations fail, there are a variety of publicly funded and/or listener-supported radio and television services around the globe (including the CBC, BBC, ABC, PBS, etc.).
He ignores the fact that the corporate news agencies began to fail long before the rise of the Internet. For verification you can check Ben Bagdikian's The Media Monopoly which was originally published in 1983 or Project Censored which originally launched in 1976. Most news organizations long since stopped seriously investing in investigative reporting. This was clearly demonstrated by the corporate media's cheerleading for and complete failure to ask questions about the Iraq War.
For further evidence, watch a commercial newscast or read a newspaper. Take out the human interest (cat in a tree) stories, take out the celebrity gossip, the sports scores and weather report (which are easily obtainable from a variety of sources), take out the trivia, then take out the wire stories, rewritten press releases and stories that they got from Twitter and Facebook and you'll be left with not very much at all.
It is true that the Internet is changing the media, very rapidly but those who claim that it is "killing the media" or any part of it are generally those who haven't been able to adapt. Overall the music industry is still profitable and the film industry has never been more profitable. Exciting new business models have also emerged in both the music and film industries. The news industry has been slow to evolve but it is not dying. Investigative journalism, long neglected by corporate journalism, has found new life on the Internet and has been financially supported by users.
Anything that there is a demand for on the Internet, will exist on the Internet. If the old news media is unprofitable and disappears, it will be replaced by something new and probably better.
If nothing else, I wish Garfield and everyone else in the media would learn that ranting at the end user and calling the audience names changes nothing. Garfield can be excused for missing this. The music, film and television industries do not seem to understand this yet either. To the best of my knowledge though it has never helped a single individual, company or industry to squeeze an extra dollar out of the Internet.