Have Bloggers “Won”? And Is That a Bad Thing?

The Roosevelt Institute sponsored a conference at the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs, “Facing the Fracture: Media & Economic Understanding,” which focused on the reporting challenge posed by the global financial crisis, particularly given the continuing economic pressures on news organizations.

I’ve seen the difficulties faced by the MSM in conventional terms, and that may be too narrow a frame. On the business side, its’ the loss of classified advertising revenues, compounded by falling subscriptions as more people consume news and information over the web. On the reporting side, reporting cycles are shorter, while at the same time, large corporations and governments have gotten far better at message control (both the packaging of the story, as well as the subtle and not so subtle pressures exerted on reporters).

So news organizations are under pressure from multiple fronts. And since I see blogs as relying on news coverage to a significant degree (even if they don’t necessarily point to articles or op-eds, they still depend on traditional reporting to provide a baseline of information). Naked Capitalism often hews to the “online long form op-ed/analysis” variant of blogging, which I have seen as complimentary to the MSM.

That may be naive. I am not doing his question justice, but Martin Wolf (the Financial Times’ esteemed chief economics commentator) asked the bloggers’ panel how we thought news organizations could survive, and the subtext was that he thought blogging represented a direct challenge to the traditional news franchise, not simply due to loss of eyeballs (although that is bad enough) but also that news organizations are devoting resources to blogging (not just the Reuters model of hiring full time bloggers like Felix Salmon and Rolfe Winkler, but commentators like Paul Krugman and now even Wolf himself having blogs).

The problem is that the hollowing out of news organizations can only go so far before information delivery becomes impaired (is the future that all virtually all original business reporting is done by Bloomberg and Reuters because it can afford to use their data service revenues to subsidize reporting? And isn’t that model ultimately subject to the same profit pressures on reporting? Put it this way: if Bloomberg sold his firm to a private equity investor, wouldn’t you expect them to start cutting the news budget?)

I invite reader comment. Obviously, readers here no doubt have a bias towards blogs, but what do you see as the broader implications of continued pressure on traditional news budgets, not just for the news organizations themselves, but for bloggers?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Richard Kline

    People want news. Intelligent people want penetrating analysis. The MSM does a miserable job of presenting either of these; most of the time, it does an execrable job. There are many problems facing the advertisement-driven model of the MSM, but the principle problem is that they do a horrible job presenting their product.

    One could opine multiple reasons why this is true. Most of the MSM is owned by large corporations which abhor any serious questioning of the status quo. Most of the MSM decided a generation ago to pitch their product at the soft middle of the demographic curve; that’s ‘dumb down’ to those ow you who need a scorecard. Most of the MSM went to recent journalism school and bought into the idea of false ‘balancing’ which has castrated their editorial opinion in favor of whoever is driving debate by telling the latest Big Lie. Then there is the problem of self-interested ‘sources,’ hardly new, and manageable when journalists were allowed to have an opinion themselves, but deleterious when they are supposed to be ‘neutral,’ i.e. readily maniplulatible. Then there is the issue that too many journalists have decided to become propagandists for the status quo of the moment, making their reportage the worst kind of bandwagon swillage. Then too, MSM has responded, or rather _not_ responded to the emergence of new kinds of media spreading current information reportage: just when the MSM needs established ‘quality brand’ to fall back on they find that they gutted the brand to fellate large shareholders and the interests of the same.

    I like news, as an historian, and read a lot of it. I would love for the news to be better and better down. But the MSM has long since chosen to be come a speed bump on the way of a better understanding for me. That is regrettable. But the failed themselves long before the rest of us deserted them.

    1. Doug Terpstra

      Indeed. Well said. “News” organizations have been hollowed out over many years and are bleeding from self-inflicted foot wounds. By toadying to power through self-censorship and lazy stenography while demanding ever higher profit margins, they finally strangled the goose and rendered themselves irrelevant. Bloggers are only filling a perfect vacuum in investigative journalism left by the MSM’s gross dereliction and cowardice.

      Worth repeating: “[they] failed themselves long before the rest of us deserted them.”

  2. Capricorn

    Blogging can provide instantaneous expert commentary on events. For example, on seeing the FT’s headline “Goldman denies ‘bets against clients'” I went straight to NakedCapitalism to see if Yves had cast her critical eye over the report.

    This is a real plus.

    On the other hand, in most cases, blogging does not replace careful, studied analysis. For example, how many Blogs contain a comprehensive list of reforms needed by the Financial System? Paul Krugman’s blog ranges over topics from the Connecticut Woods, to his students & colleagues, to odd points about major macroeconomic issues.

    All good blogs are educational – the links provided to supporting and background material are invaluable.

    Blogging suffers from its’ very anonymity. People feel free to “shoot their mouth off”, to comment without fair consideration. So much so that I rarely bother to read the comments. Martin Wolf’s original “Economists’ Forum” made some effort to accept comments only from qualified people, but it seems to have gone away.

    As far as the mainstrean Media is concerned, everyone chooses their poison, according to their taste. I expect that will always be the case. Except for a few sources, I read Blogs before I read “the news”.

    So, in summary, it seems to me that blogs make a very valuable, but limited, contribution. To claim that Bloggers have “won” is at best an over-simplification.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      To make it clear, I do not think bloggers have “won” because I don’t there there is competition, and even if there were, bloggers get much fewer eyeballs than MSM.

      It was Martin Wolf who said bloggers had won. This was NOT my formulation.

      But he may just be cheezed off at having to write a blog. :-)

      1. Capricorn

        Thanks, Yves. This is an interesting topic. Its’ been teasing me since my first comment.

        Your post was framed in the context of the mainstream media. In the context of policy on the GFC, I’d say the blogs have definitely lost. Policy-makers appear to have totally ignored the critiques presented in the blogs. It goes further than that. We’ve lost some very valuable sources to the Bank/Fed/Administration coterie. I really miss Brad Setser & Willem Buiter.

        In some ways, this lack of influence is not surprising. The blogs don’t present a coherent message on what policy should be. Mostly, they critique rather than propose, and each blog tends to have a different focus. But that also means blogs, in their current form, will find it difficult to achieve the degree of influence wielded by some of the mainstream media, even though the blogs beat the MSM hands down for serious analysis.

        But the GFC has caused blogs to develop a great deal, and I’d expect them to go on developing, so real influence is still possible.

        I don’t see blogs ever replacing the MSM, since it has evolved into an entertainment service as much as an information service (even their “news” & current affairs sessions). But market forces still apply to the MSM. They are feeding the people what the people want, probably with a “lowest common denominator” effect thrown in. It isn’t just the MSM influencing society, but society does, through its’ choices, influence the MSM.

        In that sense, the MSM should be seen as a reflection of society.

        Services such as Bloomberg address the needs of a specific audience. The format & style is tuned to their readership. If the quality of Bloomberg’s reporting fell below the standards their readership expects, their readership would look elsewhere for the information. So I’d expect Bloomberg to evolve as a result of the pressures you identified, but never be replaced by a blog. For example, HotCopper provides a lot of useful (ASX) investor info, but doesn’t attempt to report.

        The big shift in the MSM is going to be pay-for-access. And that will make its’ audiences more selective. I’m happy to subscribe to the Financial Times, but I’m buggered if I’d pay for the Herald-Sun.

        1. Richard Kline

          I must stay that I disagree with your contention that blogs fail to present policy alternatives. Yes, blogs are critique-heavy and critique laden. That tends to be because blog posting is reactive to current events. So is MSM reportage in point of fact. I have seen _extensive policy proposals_ on numerous issues of reform, behavior, and functionality of the US and global financial system posted on blogs, taking merely the last three years as the sample. The policy prescriptions are more numerous, better developed, and more clearly articulated in the blogosphere than any MSM remarks I have followed. I’m not going to detail examples because the point is so evident it should really be incontestable frankly.

          By contrast, your point that blog commentary, both the critiques you credit and the prescriptions you do not, have been completely ignored by government policy actors is well taken. Blogs at this point do not commmand a mass audience. They do not command significant financial movements, nor are they backed by significant financial or political actors. Bloggers do not personally have the ear of powerful policy actors. Bloggers are not, by and large, on the treadmill of appointment to government desks before reentry to a sphere of public commentary. One could, most uncharitably, describe bloggers and their readership as the egghead 1% talking to itself, an unfair description which nonetheless fits their functonal place in policy formation to this time. . . . To this time, but things may well change.

          I an not by any means touting blogs as ‘superior to the traditional reporting,’ or anything like that. Blogging has major downsides to this time. The money is too small in it to grow the eyeball base for the most part, and it is _numbers_ that makes for clout. Limbaugh IS an idiot, for example, as far as his content value goes, but like Father Caughlin of three generations ago anyone who attracts a loyal audience who hangs on his every dribble of spittle has influence because numbers are power. But that takes money. The 24-7-365 reportage cycle of blogs is brutal on the burnout side, and we will lose many bloggers simply to fatigue, and often just as their expertise becomes significant. Being right makes you credible, and neither traditional reportage or bloggers have any monopoly on that, but having to be a one-person shop and continuously raising money is debilitating on the product and speaks against longevity whereas traditional newspapers and broadcast outfits have had significant durability.

          The inability of bloggers to monetize their brand signicantly effectively caps their influence, is another way of saying what I’m saying. What I personally anticipate is that we will, regrettably very gradually, see something of a Pacifica model for blogging, where a nonprofit model, established ‘supporter bases,’ and initial endowments will provide sufficient stability for individual bloggers to get on with reportage and analysis while the outfit handles the money end. The Alternet has that model, for example. Fewer go-it-alone commentors and more reportage-and-commentary shops. At that point, the policy influence of bloggers may become more relevant: they will be commentary providers just as we have now in the MSM whose individual weight will be decided by being good, being right, and above all by being popular.

          1. Capricorn

            Thanks, Richard. I think you misinterpret my comments about policy alternatives – or perhaps I did not express my thoughts clearly. Actually, when you say “describe bloggers and their readership as the egghead 1% talking to itself,” I think you are alluding to a similar feature.

            That is, if you scan multiple blogs, you will see something like 95% critique, 5% prescription, but the prescriptions differ, sometimes wildly! Some of those prescriptions are excellent proposals, some seem quite dubious. However, such a diverse collection of opinion, even though valuable in sorting out options, cannot be suggested as a true policy alternative.

            Your thoughts about the evolution of blogs might be part of the answer. A better solution may be a specific effort by a group of appropriately-qualified bloggers & economists to pull together a true policy proposal, as in draft legislation, supported by clear, concise arguments, with lobbying, working through sympathetic legislators.

            Without this, our blogging is nothing more than the buzzing of a few bees around the apiarists who are stealing our honey.

            Yes, I understand that that involves a massive effort by a bunch of people who are already stretched to their limit. But, damn it all, the challenge is on a par with the challenge addressed by the Federalist Papers. I would be prepared to provide a lot of support for such an effort, financial (within my meagre means) or otherwise.

            Yves is already moving somewhat in that direction, through her appearances on TV, and her participation in conferences.

            Blogging is extremely valuable. But it alone is not going to produce the changes we so badly need.

          2. Richard Kline

            So Capricorn, I understand what you are saying. It is in our view of the end-goal of blogging commentary that I think we (somewhat) diverge.

            Regarding the cacophony of the blogoshere as a whole, and the inability of is voices to consense upon a policy proposal, I would, rather broadly, paraphrase Robert Silverberg and say, “95% of anything is crap.” I would never encourage a soul to survey x number of blogs to derive a ‘reference opinion,’ which you seem to have implied in both of your comments, exactly because the great bulk of commentors simply are insufficiently informed and analytic to raise the median value. Nor would I expect anything like a consensus opinion to emerge: bloggers open up shop because they like to gab, indeed they must be compulsive about their own view to stand the pace, seems to me. I cannot presently think of ten econoblogs _in total_ I would personally survey for content, though when Setser and Buiter were in the game I could probably reach that number. Some folks are simply better at information aggregation, information synthesis, original thought, or policy formation. Anyone skilled at all four is unlikely to have time (or interest) in running a blog—except Yves [hi there, friend o’ mine!]. What I would suggest with econoblogs is exactly what I pursue in doing any topical research of expert opinion and evidence: sift out the best; look at their evidence; mark their biases; look for historical instances of either their critiques or their proposals. Keep the number manageable. You’ll end up in the same place of analysis without having to spend time forking throught the blessed haystack wherein there is no pony to be found anyway.

            Regarding your suggestion that in time econobloggers could/should coalesce around a ‘detailed policy proposal for legislation,’ I seriously do not see that as a goal for bloggers of any kind. Not that I think legislation is bad. And some bloggers (those knowlegeable regarding the legislative process) likely will do some of this anyway, and may do it quite well. But the goal is wrong. As a counter example, the major media in the US _does not and HAS not_ done any such thing. The level of detail is out of their league, for one thing, even when they had resources. Expressing editorial opinion for or against a sprecific bill or treaty or the like is quite different in scope from what you propose, and has been very much within the ambit of the major media. Just as it is presently and should only become more so within the ambit of well-informed, insightful, and articulate bloggers right now. The Federalist Papers are _not_ a good analog, to me, of what bloggers should do: these were produced by signinificant political actors as a way of pushing postions they had personally worked for in policy formation, insiders in a word, not by journalists expressing ‘the will of [some] people.’ When and as dissident Fed governors and some politicians of stature turn to blogs as a way of advancing a policy position they want to push through, we’ll know blogs have really arrived, but it doesn’t seem to me that this is what is really being discussed, here.

            There is the further issue that policy proposals which enter the legislative process are subjected to, let us say pressures, which render the outcome something not a function of the proposal but of the consitutency and policy actors involved. So bloggers taking their finely honed, perfect proposals to a legislative body are going to get blown out the door and off the agenda by power bases within. Having a single major issue focus one can drive home—single-payer, break up the leviathans, US out of [everywhere else]—is something one can hope to drive forward in the legislative process, and so something far more relevant for bloggers to get behind, in my view. Yes, having detailed policy positions puts them (or anyone) in a better position to advocated and defend the main goal, but pressures will abrade the edges of any ‘crafted proposal’ is what I’m saying.

            What the major media has done for generations is shift public opinion; it is just this function which bloggers may be able to take over in a productive way. Shaping opinion can be done in the strong form of framing policy outcomes; “Enact X.” Shaping opinion can be done in the spare form of precipitating majorities; “Y is better.” Shaping opinion can be done in nascent form of revealing information; “Z is/is not happening.” Bloggers are best at the latter. In part this seems to me because they have focused on it—presenting information, often evidence, that was not in the public domaing or at least in the public purview. Bloggers are also good at this in part because the MSM has signifcantly abandoned this function in favor of propaganda and public relations, so information which in principle _should_ be presented by the major media is lying around waiting for someone to get on a virtual soapbox with it. Bloggers are definitely attempting to engage in the middle level of shaping opinion. But the lack of visibility of even the best bloggers due to scale issues which are primarily monetary bottlenecks has made ‘blogger opinion’ of limited weight yet. There is a long argument to be made, which I won’t pursue here, that ‘precipitating majority’ is a subtle process at the edges, and can be achieved even without mass and repetition behind a voice. [George Lakoff works on on aspect of this, but there are other aspects to this perspective which really haven’t been well developed in cognitive and sociological research. Yet.] Bloggers are simply not in a position to frame policy outcome yet. They lack the visibility, and with much of the public therefore lack the credibility, the quality of advice (good/bad/indifferent) notwithstanding. There have been times, rare, when influential editors or publishers could for a short time frame opinion alone. There is not reason why a blogger couldn’t achieve that, but I don’t expect it to be often anymore than this has been a frequent result historically in other mass media. To the extent to which we have a ‘Pacifica model’ though, where established forums with established perspectives can set benchmarks in public opinion, the mild form of policy framing may be achievable. We are a long way from that though, I think we both agree.

  3. Hans Huett

    I like news. I appreciate thick description & thorough analysis. Yet I´m almost sure that for the time being even the best bloggers have a complementary role. There might come a day where they will be able to rely on checked facts delivered by other trusted sources.
    Yet the MSM will have to change their business models as well. There are some papers already owned by charities or foundations. Others will have to follow this path. Additional income may be generated by taxing the total revenue of telecom carriers since their networks are de facto distributing copyrighted material. This tax on telecoms may generate additional income for charity-owned media.

  4. Glen

    The issue I have with MSM in Australia is the lack of objective content with the overwhelming majority of stories being written by reporters rather than journalists. Such is the extent of cost cutting in the MSM, a recent Crikey.com.au story attributed approx 80% of news stories to political or industry press releases. So where do you turn to if you actually want ‘news’? Blogs of course. Don’t bother going to news.com.au for any in-depth economic analysis, all you’ll get is the never ending barrage of just how wonderful house prices are in Australia and how they’ll never fall. Judging by the moronic comments the stories get, there are alot of stupid people in Australia. The only vaguely news worthy organisation is Fairfax, at least they’ve hooked with with Bloomberg so get some sort of reasonable analysis but still, they lack the depth, diversity and criticality of events that blogs provide.

  5. Tayor

    In the recent healthcare debate, I went to Ezra Klein and Jon Walker for analysis.

    One of the most important policy debates of the last 50 years, and the traditional media was MIA (except for horse race coverage).

    I’m sure they see the iPad as their saviour, that it will become to written media what the iPod was to music. But whereas people are willing to pay $0.99 for a song, I doubt people will want to pay $0.02 for their execrable product.

    I am referring to US media. Ken Hiatt has been killing off the Washington Post brand for the last decade at least, and I don’t think the NYT realizes how much damage they did with Judy Miller and sitting on the wiretapping story for a year. As a regular reader of Dean Baker’s blog, I know not to waste my time reading economic stories in the NYT. Remind me again how these guys expect to stay in business?

    I still go to Guardian and FT (and BBC) for news. There seems to be something fundamentally wrong with the education that elite media get in this country, or just elites in general. They seem to know very little and are naturally predisposed to parrot conventional wisdom. I don’t think it’s a broader social problem, the success of the blogs is testament to the gap the media left that blogs rose up to fill.

    1. Arciero

      FYI, the Guardian pre-tax lost 90 million pounds for the 2008-09 fiscal year. So when the NYT and WaPo died, they’ll be on the same bus.

      1. Taylor

        At least if Guardian starts charging for on-line access, they may have something that people are willing to pay for.

        The most important asset any media outlet has is the trust of the readers/viewers/listeners. The US media has, at least since the Lewinsky fiasco, been trashing their brand. Now they wonder how come they’re losing customers.

        1. Arciero

          When Murdoch announced he was putting the Times behind a pay wall, the Guardian editorial staff announced en masse it was a horrible idea that would doom the Times to failure, and that people expect their information free.

          Now I think the pay model is not going to work, but it’s been pretty well proven for a few years now that the free model can’t pay for itself either.

  6. Nik Kondratieff

    I think you’ve framed the argument well, as is generally the case on this blog. Not to be overly reductionist, but the problem with MSM is yet another example of corporatist capitalism run amok. Eventually we’ll have a bifurcated market structure with mega-MSM duopolies controlling the “business” end and the thriving blogger community on the “content” end until such time as some “innovative” entrepreneurial organization comes along and tries to roll up the bloggers into institutions so they can generate “efficiencies” and profits. Thus the cycle will continue and in 30 years we’ll be lamenting the end of the independent blogger–it’s already happening.

    History repeats, because human behavior is consistent.

    Are bloggers not the 21st century incarnation of the 18th century town crier, using the tools of the Internet age to reach their network community? We’ve come full circle, yet we’ve learned nothing except how to become more efficient in lining the pockets of the few at the expense of the many. Sadly there won’t be anyone there to chronicle the next cycle, though I doubt there would be an audience that could comprehend.


    1. Richard Kline

      Naw, the 18th century feuilliton (pamphleteer) model. And there, too, the commentors lead public opinion, discussed new policies long before those made it out of official mouths, were generally more liberal than the public and FAR more liberal than officialdom.

  7. attempter

    I consider the MSM worthless at best and often pernicious with regard to its public trust: educating the non-rich on what’s in their interest, afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted.

    On the contrary, most of its activity today is dedicated to systematically lying to the people on behalf of kleptocrats, comforting the comfortable (“Blankfein gets only $9 million bonus” – my emphasis in an NYT headline) and afflicting the afflicted (the NYT’s vicious assault on ACORN, continuing to this day; also its systematic complicity in war crimes).

    So as part as its perspective goes I’d happily see it destroyed completely.

    But that does leave the question of who does the bulk of reportage, since intelligent readers can still extract reality out of the MSM’s obscurantist reporting and then convey this truth via the blogs and other alternative media.

    There’s some excellent independent reporting out there, but it simply can’t muster much in the way of quantity given its resources.

    So, that’s the problem at any rate. I’m not sure what’s the answer.

    1. Doug Terpstra


      Your example, “the NYT’s vicious assault on ACORN” is a perfect example of media malfeasance, bordering on malicious.

      Maddow, just last night, told part of the rest of the story behind the damning ACORN video paraded relentlessly on Clusterfox Noise, the one allegedly showing an ACORN employee aiding and abetting a human traffiking operation. What was never shown or released on MSM until Rachel’s show last night was that the employee was in fact playing along and immediately afterward reported the meeting to the police. If true, why was that correction never widely and loudly proclaimed? Instead ACORN is another fallen domino for the dispossessed. Mission accomplished. MSM, rest in agony.

  8. Taylor

    BTW don’t tell me that the media still has an important role in supplying news.

    When Wikileaks released the video of US soldiers committing war crimes and giggling as they did it, the top news story in US outlets was an interview with Tiger Woods.

    Marcy Wheeler is still the go-to person on torture memos and the breakdown of constitutional protections for individual liberties.

    In retrospect, I guess it’s clear that the traditional media in this country has always been about supporting the traditional power structures. For example, there’s a theory that Woodward and Bernstein were pawns in a war between the White House and the CIA.

    The problem now is that there is a wide and widening gap between the interests of the traditional power structures and the general citizenry. Elite journalists can kiss the asses of our lords and masters, and their banker paymasters, if they want. Just don’t expect the rest of us to pay to watch.

  9. NS

    This is an interesting topic. MSM was once, like many professions, one of integrity and a code of conduct; today those who championed those codes are likely spinning in their graves.

    Blogs are a threat to news in an obtuse way; but this is side effect to poor reporting, poor investigative work and the appeal to short attention spans. In particular appealing to a focused demographic is likely more harmful than blogs. Blogs fill a long empty gap. News organizations believe their own BS about the interest and abilities of ‘common, ordinary Americans’. It is a highly flawed and contemptuous view.

    Larger news outlets which like AP and Reuters need to survive and thrive, this is the core to gathering of factual information. Cable news, network news, slanted print media is declining due to lack of quality, focusing on more narrow audiences and massaging their content to please them and their billionaire ultimate editors, ad revenue sponsors. High editorilization and opinionistic reporting presented as fact and news. It is an assault on the industry more than blogs are. What isn’t reported and left off the teleprompter often vastly more important than following a blow-by-blow celebrity melt down.

    Blogs and the internet are transforming how news is gathered, reported and disseminated. Its very difficult, for a recent example, for an institution like the Catholic Church to claim information that harms them is ‘gossip’ and an ‘attack on the church’ while factual information is easily found that shows this as a laughable and desperate statement. Not so long ago, people wouldn’t have had the resources at their fingertips to judge the validity of this argument.

    News Media comes under the heading of evolve or die. Many of us who have a few gray hairs know this through our working lives. The news media has long depended on controversy, bleeding-leading news and appealing to short attention spans with a celebrity like culture in a dumbed down world they themselves created.

    I see the internet and blogs as a positive for the future of people as information that affects our daily lives can’t be twisted, hidden and subverted as easily, even as easily as 10-15 years ago. In fact, I would say this is one way the current economic crisis was created.

    Just as we were failed by political leadership/regulatory bodies leading up to the financial crisis; so too were we failed by media. Adoration of a central banker that bordered on idol worship, blind greedy lust of playing the casino with promises any Tom, Dick or Hariette could become obscenely wealthy doing it (see dotcom era) also represents a failure of media to raise a flag of warning and genuine examination of our path.

    Americans are characterized by Europeans and other much older societies as naive. The internet is proving to be a powerful remedy to this flaw, thankfully.

    This is verbose, my apologies; but, this is a fascinating topic.

  10. john

    I sat down to this article after thirty minutes of my daily digit smearing by the hard copy of the New York Times. As monstrously irritating as that papers editorial policy and “fit to print” judgement is, anyone with a copy handy take a minute: page after page after page every day of semi-random, minor stories from around the world.

    My reading history with the Times now in it’s 35th year I can’t begin to put a number on the times one of those odd loose end stories a year or five years later turned into major news about which I was not surprised. Generally still irritated by the that papers failure to reground the story in its own previous reporting, none the less I have to credit demi Punch for sticking with the news.

    That reporting staff must be paid for and sooner or later those of us interested in reading it’s output will become willing to pay for it. As I’ve believed for fifteen years I still think micro-payments will be the answer but no one on the publishing end yet thinks they can recoup their expenses one nickel at a time.

  11. fiscalliberal

    I am new to the financial mess as a result of my retirement savings being in jepordy.

    I associate msm as perpetuaters of the hype which maintains the cash flow for the expensive salaries.

    I rely on blogs for the in depth analysis, by people experienced in the industry who support thier arguments with facts.

    Msm also seems to allow ideology to seep in to obscure the facts.

    WE KNOW THE SYSTEM IS BROKEN – some how the facts need to become dominant. Some how the fraud needs to be prosecuted and this is not being done under the Bush and Obama administrations.

  12. burnside

    The fundamental problem for news organizations is, I believe, the difficulty they have had in discovering a business model which pays for both an online presence and the reportage to support it. Even the least successful broadcast or broadsheet item, after all, is made possible by an apparatus for newsgathering and, whether televised or printed or distributed by internet, all our various effusions refer in large part to material gathered by MSM staff, and on their dime.

    I’m not sure Reuters or AP or CNN have yet come to see themselves primarily as information agents. But until they find a way to sustain themselves financially apart from classifieds, display or dayparted advertising, print and television and blog-based reportage will be in trouble, all alike. You can’t rebut or analyze what has never seen print.

  13. Adam

    One of the key problems is that really good journalism and reporting is not necessarily profitable. However, a healthy and vibrant news media (blogs included) is a necessary component in a healthy democracy.

    It’s so critical that we as a country should truly consider a subsidy for it; our founding fathers did with a huge postal subsidy for newspapers. And it doesn’t have to be a “gift” to big media giants (which are bad for real news) either.

    I wish I could recall the original author of the idea (it wasn’t me), but you could issue vouchers to every American and allow them to use the voucher to support whatever media outlet(s) they deemed worthy – bloggers included. Ideally this would allow good quality journalist and reporters to make a living and support a vibrant news media environment.

  14. mitchw

    Here’s what I just did. I got a subscription to FT. It comes to the door. MSM has gotten so hollowed out and dumbed down, and now they’re going to start charging online. So I have chosen how to spend my money. If I could have gotten a grazing license I would have done that instead.

    And yesterday I realized that I no longer read the NYT, as I just plain didn’t want to read their piece on the FCC regulation of the net. I just don’t trust them and don’t want to waste the time.

    I’ll keep going to strong Blogs like this one. Any ‘paper’ that puts up a pay wall is entering the witness protection program.

  15. i on the ball patriot

    The beat goes on …

    • Its all about the rich buying up and co-opting the new delivery system, the internet and all of its manifestations.

    • Its not the MSM its the CM (corporate media) and they never had a code of conduct other than please the master if you want the paycheck. Yes there were always break away publishers, but always small and always lacking power of voice — circulation (just like on the internet today).

    • Its not about the information component of ‘news’, its about the propaganda component of news — the slant — the mass viewpoint shaping and control.

    • In addition to content, it is, more importantly, about delivery and the CM co-opting the new delivery media — the internet and all of its manifestations — through a range of machinations. The CM is already on the web in the form of; the Huffington Post, Krugman, Ft, etc., all with their slanted co-opted ‘progressive’ messages, and, worse, through purchase of the delivery system of the internet itself and purchase of the regulation of the internet. The back door hijacking.

    Bloggers have not “won” they have merely stemmed the tide a wee bit. If they truly want to win they need to:

    • Consolidate to a louder voice with a watchful eye to being co-opted.

    • Ignore the “baseline information” pure bullshit spin being provide by the CM (stop attending CM phony ‘think tank’ conferences and writing books that channel and hijack their energies).

    • Focus instead on consolidating and presenting what they do have, the reality of millions of local stories and newsworthy events all over the globe about those who have been screwed by the wealthy ruling elite and their machinations.

    • Use that new, louder, consolidated voice to formulate a new governmental ideal and to organize election boycotts as ‘votes of no confidence’ in existing governments.

    Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

  16. NotTimothyGeithner

    Blogs can’t “win” anything because newspapers/MSM in this country ceased to be news. Good blogs use a mix of traditional media and items like government reports to create their version of reality (I don’t mean that as an insult). Mainstream media almost exclusively uses press releases.

    Reporting died out in an effort to turn a profit on what isn’t really a profit-making business. The old owners of newspapers use to be the actual hands-on editors. Al Jazeera is heavily subsidized or was as it grew, and I believe its a non-profit outfit.

    Blogs have just replaced the void. I hope more blogs start to follow the talkingpointsmemo.com model and look at keeping relatively tight interest areas and work to develop their resources around whatever they decide is their interest.

  17. Tim

    3 Questions about what great financial blogs can provide. I attempted to post these in the comment section of this event’s webpage beforehand but it didn’t get posted, so here goes:

    1. Do you believe the passing of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative could play a strong role in helping more whistle blowers come out and increase transparency in financial data that is released?

    2. Do you believe there is a need for one campaign, inspired by http://www.FixCongreesNow.org or http://www.MoveYourMoney.net that is needed to “define/explain” to the masses what regulatory reform we need at minimum?
    [I’m thinking – derivatives,as example, how the Roosevelt People don’t get it. Link.

    3. Is there financial data that needs to be more transparent that would help non-econ bloggers/journalists/public have a place to dig around?
    [I’m thinking the work the Sunlight Foundation does, as an example, in pulling publicly available data into forms that are reusable.]

  18. dearieme

    There’s an interesting implication in “When Wikileaks released the video of US soldiers …”. Because it is live US Forces video, I tend to believe what it shows. Had it been shot by an MSM company, I’d automatically assume that it had been faked or edited to support some partisan political point of view. That’s how bad things have got.

  19. Arciero

    I’ll defer to a rugby article from a journalist writing his last editorial for the Guardian.


    “Bloggers, the world is yours. Well, at least a tiny corner of it, where rugby is played, can be influenced by you. Although I’m not sure how much attention Martin Johnson pays to your views on the angles of running of his centres. But anyway, you are here to stay.

    When I first joined The Observer, in 1991, nobody spoke to anyone. It was the age of England supremacy in Europe and the best players also happened to be a fairly militant lot, largely because they had no say in the shaping of their future. The game was beginning its voyage into professionalism, but only in the sense that rumblings about the inequalities of the amateur game were being heard, grumblings that manifested themselves as a refusal by the England players that year to speak to the media after their first victory over Wales in Cardiff since 1963.

    I used to double up for television, a bit like now, and follow them round as a sort of cub reporter for the BBC, doing what was called back then the Five Nations camp report. And it truly was, whichever way you looked at it – but it wasn’t helped by the fact that Will Carling’s team were permanently surly. The views they held on Dudley Wood, the secretary of the Rugby Football Union and the paid champion of an unpaid ethos, seemed to extend to anyone outside their own playing circle.

    I was thinking the other day, having been stuck in a hotel in Bagshot, huddled around an England player on media duty in a group of a dozen reporters, sharing our exclusive on him, that there was more fun in being completely shunned by those players. The deliberate silence of Brian Moore back then said a lot more than the carefully delivered nothings from the latest graduate of the media training course.

    Perhaps rugby teams simply like the sense of being under siege and if there is no genuine cause to justify a grievance against the scum of the media, well, they may as well just invent one. And rule No1 is: give nothing away; tell them nothing.

    The digital revolution has opened up a limitless universe of words on every subject under the stars, including dear old rugby. And if the output from the players is of limited value then that gives prominence to the views of those only too happy to deliver more than their fair share of words. That’s you. So, the future is yours. Take care of it.”

    Now to my point of view, maybe I can write a blog post on it:

    The mainstream media will be significantly curtailed. There is no way that with the current structure of the internet news orgs will be able to cover their costs, I don’t think online advertising will ever rise to meet the costs of running a news org, and readers aren’t willing to pay for quality outside of niche areas. So what we’re going to get is more quantity via blogs but the quality will be sh*t. I don’t see how anyone can argue that over the past decade or so, as newspapers have declined and blogs/internet media have risen, the quality of journalism has completely collapsed and now it’s to the point where it’s extremely difficult to read an article by a person not trying to sell you his or her point of view and so the article is very skewed. Political journalism now outside of the long-established newspapers, which are declining, is a complete joke. So society is reaching the point where anonymous bloggers (anonymous in the sense none of us know who these people really are or what are their motivations) shaping the opinions of the mass populace and they’re not going to report the news, they’re going to report their view of the news and try to sell you their point of view. People hate Fox News but blogs in general are Fox News on steroids, and there’s no such thing as an independent, unbiased blog, regardless of what anyone says, the sole reason for their collective existance is to act as a mouthpiece for the blogger’s editorial viewpoint.

    And since bloggers are much easier to marginalize their existance than the mainstream media and will be more heavily splintered almost assuredly, society will no longer have a fourth estate keeping the powerbrokers in all fields of life accountable.

  20. Dan Duncan

    The mandate of the 4th Estate is to report on and expose powerful institutions.

    Now that the MSM is perhaps the most powerful institution, the blogging industry has grown to report on and expose the 4th Estate.

    Unfortunately, that puts blogging into a derivative position. Bloggers typically use that which the MSM provides and combines it with some education/expertise to render a credible product.

    If MSM suffers, so will bloggers. Who is going to a war zone, or to report on some atrocity in Africa? Who is going suffer through weekly County Commission meetings? Who is going to spend 3 months piecing together a story on a corrupt local sheriff or a judge receiving illegal kickbacks?

    If you say a blogger can perform these functions, please name one who currently fulfills this vital role. If no bloggers are doing this, then how can one reasonably say that bloggers won’t end up suffering as well?

    In order for bloggers to establish an economic model, whereby the blogger can go “on location” for months at a time…they need money. How do they get it? Tip Jars!? Pay-Per-View? [Good luck charging for content.]

    They’ll get paid from Advertising. Just like good old MSM.

    Few informational sources are as compromised as the blogging industry dependent on advertising revenue. Search for an “I-Pad Review”…or let’s say you’re interested in the Greek/Euro situation so you search for “Euro currency movements”. What will you find but compromised infomercials from a blogger getting affiliate revenue from Amazon or a Forex broker.

    Getting past all that…those who rely on bloggers for most of their information fail to realize the creep of ideological validation. Those who frequent their “chosen” blogs tend to only frequent those blogs which serve to confirm their ideological bent.

    Look at what happens on this blog when a guest-poster (because it would never be Yves) has the temerity to ever-so-slightly veer from the notion that the financial apocalypse is upon us. Oh, The Scandal! The Betrayal. Outrage. People come to blogs more for validation than information and it is a lie to say otherwise.

    This incessant need to seek out a validating opinion-spew only serves to polarize a populace in dire need of cohesion.
    And a feedback loop ensues whereby the blogger just gives ’em what they want. “Information” and “Validation” are blended into the insipid, self-righteous lie of Group Propaganda.

    For further reference, just read any George Washington post[and don’t forget to chase the attendant self-referencing links back to GW’s own blog via the THIS, THIS, THIS, THIS and oh yeah THIS] or some other Pandering Post from the “Social Values” Archive.

  21. nowhereman

    I’m afraid patriot has nailed this one;
    • Its not about the information component of ‘news’, its about the propaganda component of news — the slant — the mass viewpoint shaping and control.
    When I chose a news source, I want one that has the same ideological slant as mine, heck what fun is it reading propaganda that continually pisses you off. When Corporate Media took control of small town media, the result was the same propaganda from many sources. No where to go.
    And that’s what we have now, we are bombarded with Newspeak informing us what to want and what we must achieve to be a success.
    What drew me to Blogs initially was the no bull shit comments that would quite effectively knock you off your high horse with one of the best BS detectors out there. You just don’t find this in the CM.
    Also, I think this question affects a smaller portion of the population than we like to believe. I would predict that the vast majority of Americans sole source of news is the TV. I don’t expect that many Mid-West farmers read the NYT or WaPost. Maybe that rag beside the checkout (somebody has to be buying that crap). My point is that the blogs I follow all seem to have the same participants. And I learn a great deal more from them than I sometimes learn from the Blog topic itself. And it is there that Blogs win over the Corporate Media. There is a sense of community, however, I think that community may not be as large as we like to think it is.
    Nevertheless, I’m becoming more impressed with the impact Blogs appear to be having on “politics”. Maybe Blogs don’t have to be large in numbers, just vocal and on point.

  22. Siggy

    The blogosphere has come into being because the traditional users of MSM have deemed it to be inadequate if not a failure.

    In that, the bloggers have won nothing. They/We are simply replacing what was once the work of MSM with our own little version of journalism.

    The failure of MSM has been driven by the costs of obtaining and delivering information. Labor is a large and important factor in the effort to deliver information and objective analysis. My observation is that it has been sell outs and the incompetence of individual journalists that has given expression to this failure by profit event.

    1. Arciero

      But Siggy, they’re not doing the work of MSM and journalism. More often than not they regurgitate something the MSM wrote or said and give their point of view on it or write editorials. That’s not journalism, that’s just being reactionary. It’s no different than calling into sports radio and giving an opinion on the big trade that just happened.

  23. Terry

    Historically, the value added of newspapers and, less so, news magazines was their semi-balanced investigative capabilities–finding an untold, yet important, story. Based on my daily reading of the NYT online, the WaPo, and even the WSJ, that has long disappeared.

    Satuday’s WaPo, the day before Easter, was the worst that newspaper has ever produced. It had nothing new, noteworthy, investigative, or analytical. It was mostly warmed over TV accounts of various events. It was pathetic.

    So, if newspapers and news magazines can offer no value, why should we pay for them through subscriptions, much less at a newstand? Moreover, if they offer the same (but still generally worthless) product free on-line, why should I renew my subscription? (My answer for the moment: I like to hold a paper while I’m eating breakfast and drinking my first cups of coffee for the day. It’s got nothing to do with substance.)

    And, in my view, bloggers have done a far better job in the current economic crisis of reporting new information, analyzing more substantively the implications of that information, and even commenting on the news than their MSM counterparts. This includes you, Yves.

    How did the MSM respond? WaPo cut back its business and economic news section. Rupert Murdoch has turned the WSJ into a business-oriented USA Today. The NYT still tries and it has good reporters in Sorkin, Morgenson, and others, but it’s suffering.

    Now there is still a concern: Bloggers are losing their edge. Not that the MSM is catching up, but they are not being as inquisitive, insightful, and productive as they were a year or two ago. More & more I see the same arguments repeated (including here) with little additional investigation or analysis.

    Shape up economic and business bloggers–or you, too, will find yourselves replaced.

    1. Arciero

      Well I’ve already mostly replaced Yves, I just pop in when I see a title that’s interesting on another site. She’s not near as bad yet as Mish has become, who has become a complete caricacture.

  24. AK

    MSM “experts” don’t have monopoly on truth anymore.

    First, crisis has exposed that virtually no one in the whole world understands clearly how today’s global economy should function.

    Second, modern economic education like CFA program makes lots of people (tens of thousands) knowledgeable in economics and finance up to the level of MSM “experts” while studying part-time at home.

  25. Kevin de Bruxelles

    In the end the media is just a conduit of information from the people and institutions who wish to affect public opinion to the actual target public. The problem for the public is how to separate the wheat of truth from the chaff of propaganda / distraction. The two best ways to find the truth are to first have some level of trust in the source, and to then run the received information through filters of scepticism.

    In the two forms being compared, the MSM and blogs, we can easily see that the MSM is a top-down non-interactive form that is easily dominated by powerful institutions who desire to crystallize public opinion in favour of their narrow interests. The key features of the MSM format are a limited number of choices due to huge barriers to entry, extraordinary efforts to build trust and brand loyalty, all this combined with few to no mechanisms for applying any scepticism to MSM product (impotent letters to the editor for example).

    Blogging in contrast has fewer barriers to entry so there is a huge choice for media consumers to pick from. This process of choosing forces the end user to develop criteria for selecting blogs they wish to read. And the comments sections of many blogs allow a form of real-time filter of scepticism to occur, which forces the blog authors to be careful in formulating their posts.

    But obviously blogs and other open source internet-based information services are no match against determined powerful institutions who want to get their messages across by any means necessary. People should always have their scepticism shields deployed. For example the very fact that the recent US military footage was “leaked” to Wikileaks gives it added authenticity in some people’s minds, along with the Pentagon loudly complaining about it. But the content of the video is very much in line with the message the Pentagon would like to be put out there; restrained soldiers only firing on those they believe to be armed, etc. In other words no lawyer could find any fault in what happened. The fact that soldiers are callously describing the results of their lethal actions surprises no one who has any knowledge of the psychology of killing in combat. Soldiers have to act that way to prevent the enormity of what they are doing drive them insane.

    To me this video was very pro-Pentagon and people should not jump to the conclusion that just because it was “leaked” on the internet that it is an authentic record of what really happened.

    In the end though, major portions of the MSM that have become ossified institutions, more concerned with their own status and power and firmly controlled by powerful interests, need they need to be allowed to fail. These powerful interests will do everything in their power to maintain their institutions, even if that means using taxpayer money to bail out failing newspapers and television media. Not that I would have anything against more public funding in theory; this works fairly well in Europe. But the US government is now so captured by corporate interests that public funding of the MSM would only extend the lifespan of these dinosaurs.

    The discussion of blogs vs. MSM has a lot in common with the question of bottom-up open source insurgencies vs. top-down, institutionally frozen conventional armies. According to one leading theorist of modern insurgency, Mao Tse-tung, an insurgency must eventually morph into a convention to actually win against another conventional army:

    The concept that guerrilla warfare is an end to itself and that guerrilla activities can be divorced from those of regular forces is incorrect. . . . Guerrilla operations during the anti-Japanese war may for a certain time and temporarily become its paramount feature, particularly insofar as the enemy’s rear is concerned. However, if we view the war as a whole, there can be no doubt that our regular forces are of primary importance, because it is they alone who are capable of producing this favorable decision

    To bring this back to the realm of the media, it is clear that the blogs will not “win” until they themselves evolve into a more conventional, content-producing form of media. But watch out, the moment this happens they will have to do battle with the same institutional challenges that the current MSM are losing to.

    Be that as it may, seeing how corrupt and useless MSM has become, I’ll take my chances that the new boss might end up being a little better than the old boss.

    1. EmilianoZ

      Excellent analysis as always.

      Just one question: you seem to think that the military “leaked” the video on purpose. Why would they do that? It doesn’t show them in their best light. Are they tired of the war?

      I also fear that the state will force us to bail out the MSM. That would be pretty disgusting. We would be paying the PR bill of the large corporations. Paying to be fed propaganda is like paying to get f*cked by the rearside (pardon my French).

      1. Kevin de Bruxelles

        Thanks Emiliano,

        While watching the video I was struck by the legal precision of the soldiers involved. It was like they were reading out of a textbook. In my profession, architecture, which is a hell of a lot less stressful than war, we would be shocked if we videotaped the decision making process of our people and found they actually followed the rules and did things the correct way! And that’s valid for all levels! So the fact that the soldiers on this tape followed the rules so well could mean two things; US soldiers are extremely well trained and managed and the fact that they were being recorded constrained their natural desire to improvise-—or the audio was cleaned up to make it legally kosher. Either is possible. While it is true that from a popular point of view the tape showed the US military in a troubling light (but then again, war is hell, and anyone who thinks otherwise is being foolish); but from the more important legal point of view, it showed those soldiers in a very good light. Reuters had been probing around and asking a lot of questions and the military could be facing lawsuits from the families of their dead employees. This could be a way to get for the Pentagon to get their message out without having to take responsibility for it and in the process killing any potential lawsuits. And if the tape ends up being a fake no one can blame the military since it was not they who leaked it, or so the story will go.

        Who knows though, all this disinformation stuff gets so complicated that we can end up frozen in the endless possibilities . I was just struck by how clever it would have been if the Pentagon’s anger at Wikileaks was being used to reinforce the authenticity of the tape.

        I totally agree that we should be covering our backsides because there is a huge danger that the serial rapists who brought us TARP and Obamacare are busy behind the scenes working on their next atrocity, the MSM bailout of 2011.

        1. EmilianoZ

          I see. Sounds plausible. I was surprised that they were constantly asking permission to engage. I thought they had the power to take that kind of initiative. Can’t imagine every single foot soldier asking his superior before shooting.

          There was a lot of blanks in the voice track. It could easily have been cleaned.

          What I don’t understand is that they’re saying the civilians have AK47s and RPGs. On the video it is just impossible to tell. The resolution is just too low. Either they have another camera with some super zoom and much higher resolution and were reasonably fooled by something looking like a weapon or those guys are just BSing.

          1. Kevin de Bruxelles

            That’s what I was wondering too. In theory an RPG is a threat (although it takes a damn lucky shot) to a helicopter and so they have every right to take these guys out if indeed they were sporting RPG’s. But I didn’t see anything that looked like an RPG either but then again I couldn’t make out much of anything down there. They could be totally BSing their superiors but from the tape we cannot tell.

  26. velobabe

    i look at blogs and my choice of content, representing my freedom of the press. turn it off, don’t return, find new ones, get a life. all this anonymous and avatar stuff is fantasy. at this point, i don’t even know if i believe the weather temperature being reported.

  27. Nostradoofus

    Bloggers are better editors and columnists, so they take that over from Msm. This leaves msm with all the costs of reporting, and bloggers with all the revenue from readers. Msm then has no business model.

    Most news sources then fail, leaving limited news sources for bloggers. Bloggers then find new news sources, either from nonprofits, public documents, or individual reporters.

    In the end, this is a huge improvement, but it will be a bumpy transition.

  28. Cullpepper

    The “fifth estate” view of news is just a short blip in the long history of the world. One, like so many other things we have come to regard as “normal” only exist because of explosion in energy availability seen in the last 100 years.

    I think what we’re seeing is “news” reverting to it’s time honored position: state propaganda, advertising, and self-published broad sheets.

    The “modern” newspaper only evolved out of the need for daily tide charts and commodity prices. All that other stuff, sports, comics, disaster stories from distant lands, it’s all fluff. The internet changed all that: faster stock prices, better sports/weather/comic selection at less cost. Even the classified section is better and faster done over the net. All of those features were bundled to save printing cost and increase share. None of that makes sense on the net where *all items, from all time, are the same distance apart*. One click.

    Here’s my bet:

    • Daily papers and nightly news casts converge on the lowest common denominator and run little better than propoganda. (Hi Fox! Hi MSNBC!)

    • Weeklies will shrink but maintain a share, at the cost of ever-expanding lifestyle sections largely paid for by product and realestate advertisers. National and world news will be relegated to AP wire stories, WHICH THEMSELVES will eventually become some bastardized version of google-news-headline ripping. Top story in aggregate, if you will.

    • A small number of critical and analytical journals will remain, but they will ALL be specializations. (Hey Yves! there were blogs in the 80’s too- but they were called ‘Zines back then!)

    • The rest of the print world will shrink and be subtly folded into the new world of the ipad where video, text and interactive features will continue to blur lines. As a young tech professional, I find the print industry’s drooling over the ipad hilarious. Many of them see it as an e-reader that will save them. It will not. What will happen is further dilution and fragmentation, even as their product becomes integrated with higher-value advertising.

    Oh? Revenue? Hahahahahahaha. Don’t worry, we’re going back to some sort of corporate/state feudalism. You’ll need a patron, not revenue.

  29. dandelion

    Last year I cancelled my subscription to the SF Chronicle becuase it had gotten so thin and mostly printed wire-service copy. A year later I find I know a tremendous amount from reading blogs about the finanical crisis, the health care debate, the ongoing wars. And I know absolutely nothing about what’s happening in City Hall and barely anything about what’s happening in Sacramento. I don’t know what the school board is doing or what scandals might be taking place in the housing or planning departments or what the Board of Supervisors is doing about the city’s deficit.

    Here’s where the gruntwork of reporting takes place — going to all those interminable meetings and taking notes and writing it up, day after day. Maybe maybe citizen journalist bloggers are filling in that space, but if so, how are they supporting themselves? I’m sure there are blogs I could find that would cover more of this, but to be honest, I miss having all this info — both national and state and local in one place I can peruse at my leisure — and the SF Gate website that I suppose is to replace the Chron doesn’t do it either, it’s as much fluff as the print version nowadays.

    TV news covers it to some extent, but only in 10 second bits spliced between car wrecks and murders.

    If no organization is going to actually pay someone to do the hard work of reporting, how is it going to get done? People do have to eat.

    Frankly, I think the fragmentation of news now is as problematic as the lack of coverage. There is far more information out there, but the people I converse with, who are not econ or poli junkies, pretty much only know about events at the sound-bite or headline depth.

    The loss of newspapers has been a very real loss.

  30. RagingDebate

    1) Blogging is still in its infancy stage. Fact checking technologies and participating members need to do a better job in this area for blogosphere news to be considered mainstream.

    2) Blogging is evolving and has the potential to replace much of the MSM. The reason is the Talking Heads format that many commentators are critical of, myself included.

    Too much opinion and the opinion is about political theater rather than local, national or international news outside of politics. The evolution of blogging is heading toward a dialogue system of news with individual citizenship viewers directly participating and becoming newscasters, reporting events and then engaging in debate and finally problem solving. So a much more interactive experience than we see today is coming.

    3) Raising funds for this form of news format is challenging to say the least. Investors I speak with want to break down the technologies that support an interactive format (such as Video Voice Over IP) into individual utilities and fund those instead.

    There are two reasons for the difficulty in getting funding for blogosphere news. The first is that blogosphere news is an emerging market. Classic investors with deep pockets have a tough time understanding all the moving technology parts and question the revenue stream of Display Advertising being able to turn a profit.

    That leaves Angels of prior successful technology companies as a limited pool of potential funders at least in the short-term. The second reason funding is difficult to obtain is the status quo. The deep pocket investors that understand the news and media business don’t want the competition to enter the marketplace. Bloggers are bootsrapping there efforts and the cut of advertising revenues from blogging platforms like Google or WordPress doesn’t cover the costs of personnel and other operational costs.

    4) The advertising revenue model beats the donation model hands down. If you run ads on your blog, the donations are tiny to non-existant. If your using the donation model for revenue and avoiding ads, it only pays 70% of operational costs.

    Display advertising is the common revenue model of a blog. Display advertising has been commoditized, competition is everywhere. To beat out the competition, creative deal-making with advertisers is required. Google offers a Cost-Per-Click performance advertising model.

    Bloggers must learn to take that performance advertising model to the next logical level and offer advertisers Cost-Per-Sales Lead and Cost-Per-Sale performance advertising models. Companies that can track conversions for advertisers are in high demand and competition are practically non-existant. I know all about it, I am in the Healthcare marketing sector as my primary business.

    Even the Pharmaceuticals now feel the urgent need to track promotions down to redemptions (how many new patients acquired per dollar spent) rather than glancing at aggregate returns (what the sector calls a ‘foggy-bottom’).

    That is a sea change from the last two years and the imbalance between demand and supply of marketers/tech companies offering these services will have to narrow and then bloggers can take advantage of the Cost-Per Lead and Cost-Per-Sale advertising models I mentioned and suck the MSM dry of advertising dollars.

    Bloggers must learn from the mistakes of Facebook and monetize email assets early in the R&D stage as a secondary form of advertising revenue. That will require a learning curve. I founded the Opt-In Email advertising sector in 1998. Direct mail advertisers are mass-migrating to Opt-In Email as the costs of postage and printing have made it an uneconomical marketing medium for almost all sectors, save Pharmaceutical or Higher Education (life-long Patients/Students recurring revenues). The nuances of Opt-In Email advertising will take the blogging community a couple of years to capitalize on.

    5) Consolidation is inevitable but a few more years off. The companies that figure out the advertising piece of the puzzle will hold the cards. The citizen-powered newscasters (often Authors) of blogosphere news can’t live on good-will and a cause alone! I am beta testing a couple of models as we speak in compensation to the Authors. Most of them wish to subsidize their current primary income stream.

    There are differences in contribution levels of contributors, establishing mechanisms to measure value and compensate accordingly will take a bit of time for blogosphere news, but the advantage is that Internet technology makes it far easier to measure such value.

    I believe we will see a tipping point around 2013-2015 of blogosphere news having more market share than the MSM T.V. news. Then and only then will the MSM feel compelled to change up it’s Talking Heads format and expand into more dialogue-based format.

  31. bird

    The networks have no use for news any longer. Cable stations have all the 24/7 “news” to themselves. Broadcasters have some rules they must follow, cable does not.
    But it isn’t really news. You mentioned the packaging. That is truly all it is. Another sitcom wrapped up in the guise of reality. It is as it always has been, entertainment. Fiction.

  32. Hugh

    Richard Kline is right. This is something the MSM did to themselves. It is precisely their failure to address the needs of their audiences that led to the creation of the blogosphere. But the blogosphere is only one part of it. It is also important to remember that media consolidation increased debt in the industry. At the same time, unreasonable returns were demanded by investors. This has led to recurrent cutbacks, reducing quality and audience, requiring further cutbacks, and so on. But along with this we see a growing clownification of both financial news, and news generally. Debt and emphasis on news as entertainment have contributed far more than the blogosphere to the current reliance on Reuters and Bloomberg.

  33. Kathi Berke

    Investigative reporting (the kind that reveals primary source corruption and leads to Congressional hearings) doesn’t seem to be done on the blogs. A good reporter is a craftsman skilled in her trade and can’t do it for free. You worry about the agenda of MSM? The Internet is entirely driven by advertising. If you get 10,000 (something like that) eyeballs on a story, you can make say $100 a month. Contrast that with Vanity Fair or other dead tree media–$2 a word, $3000 for a 1500 word article.

    Who breaks original news:
    Sy Hersh–My Lai Massacre
    Jane Mayer–CIA Black Sites
    Woodward & Bernstein–Look it up

    Can a blogger stop corruption on $100 per month? Believe me, you don’t get many eyeballs on financial or political blogs unless they’re connected with MSM. Better to do a story on Tiger Woods or Jesse James if you want to pay the bills. Supply and demand.

    Soon ebooks will be downloaded for free. Writers are the serfs of the Internet.

    Eric Schmidt, mucho $$$ CEO of Google, knows the Internet is a cesspool of false information. http://news.cnet.com/8301-13953_3-10063363-80.html.

    The only entities making money off the net are Google and hackers.

    1. Kathi Berke

      I forgot: Sy Hersh also broke Abu Ghraib. They all wrote for MSM: The New Yorker, Washington Post.

      The Internet is also good for propaganda. As to what will replace MSM in credibility and power, damned if I know.

    2. Hugh

      You mean great investigative reporting like Judy Miller’s reporting on WMD? Random acts of journalism still occur, but investigate reporting has been one of the first casualties of newsroom cost cutting. The NYT held the story on illegal wiretapping under Bush for a year and through a Presidential election. It only published the story because one of the reporters involved was about to come out with a book on it. Yves has done some great investigative reporting here. TPM broke the US Attorneys scandal. FDL has done similar great investigative reporting on torture, healthcare, and the Valerie Plame affair.

      And yes, Woodward and Bernstein broke Watergate but that was more than 35 years ago. Look at all the sycophantic, he said/she said Woodward has published since. As for Sy Hersh, he has made a career of running against the grain of American journalism so it is misleading to use him as an example of it.

      1. EmilianoZ

        So true! Woodward even wrote a book about Greenspan. It was called “Maestro”. LOL!

        1. Kathi Berke

          There are problems (sh*t, I blogged on dailykos and got troll rated daily, and threatened to be expelled–how Stalinist!).

          So how many bloggers (read: Woodward) would refrain from co-option?

          You’re not addressing my facts (fact-checking, boys): Did Woodward & Bernstein help bring down Nixon?

          Tell me one blogger that’s broken a story and I’ll capitulate unwillingly.

      2. Kathi Berke

        Recent NYT:
        Jason deParle
        Gretchen Morgenson wrote about mortgage-backed securities back in 2007
        Radiology software deaths

        Yves is brilliant, no question about it. She herself is questioning the paradox of bloggers (including myself) linking to mainstream media for primary source material in her post.

        Do you read Paul Krugman? (NYT) Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone)? I’m mainly trying to make the point that it takes a salary to do great reporting. To replace a newsroom with 2 reporters and an intern is unfortunate. Did you know Arianna Huffington doesn’t pay her writers? A liberal with a plantation.

        1. EmilianoZ

          I’ve actually read some great stuff on the HuffPo. Maybe it’s proof that it does NOT take a salary to do good reporting.

          My understanding is that Yves runs a consulting business. She still manages to produce great reporting. I remember her complaining that the MSM had lifted some of her stuff without acknowledging her.

          Maybe that’s the model we should strive for: non-professional journalists writing about issues about which they have expert knowledge. If you have a job that you like and write only occasionally out of some sense of duty and/or creative pleasure, there’s less chance you’ll
          be co-opted by some political faction.

          Let me quote a tweet from Nassim Taleb:

          Don’t trust a man on a salary -except if it is minimum wage. Those on bondage & βάναυσοι would do anything to “feed a family”.
          6:48 AM Feb 1st via web

          I have no idea what the Greek word means.

          1. Kathi Berke

            You certainly have a point, EmilianoZ. Another Greek, Aristotle: “All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind.”

            Check out this post on how Germany treats its workers better than the U.S.: http://whereiscassandra.blogspot.com/2010/02/for-99-of-americans-germany-is-better.html

            As an unknown with no platform (like a MSM outpost), it’s hard to break through. I don’t want to do the (shudder) things I have to do to put food on the table. I want to speak truth to power.

            I wonder what Taleb would say about free downloads of The Black Swan.

  34. emca

    To understand MSM you need to go to Walmart on a Sunday evening and look around at the patrons. These are the buying public. Look at the ‘news’ items gracing the check-out aisle. This is the MSM prototype for marketable commodities.

    OK, no need to bash Walmart, its customers or even our current MSM juggernaut. This can be construed as elitist (sic) criticism, moreover a cost of democracy, etc. ad nauseam. News from the main should be read critically with an eye toward skepticism, but given their limitations, they are still a valid source of news items (even if you have to dig or read between the lines), and I see no replacement, currently or on the near horizon – certainly not Blogs. That they are under stress or how they can survive is probably linked only in circumstance to popularity or lack thereof of a blog.

    Likewise, I can’t see a inherent adversarial relationship between the new digital vs. the old analog news oriented types, the Blogs being themselves an outgrowth of editorial pages (complete with reader comments!) in traditional print media and more analytical or detailed discussions from periodicals and the like.

    There should also be a distinction made between large media outlets, NYT, Fox News, WTs, with their national/international faces and smaller news editions serving local markets who can still engage in investigative journalism on a focused regional basis. Articles in the Sarasota Times on short-sale mortgage fraud or reports on Freightliner lay-offs in the Gaston Gazette are important sources (and perhaps more unbiased) with implications on broader US trends. While news from Afghanistan can be had from numerous sources, the comings and goings of local events will find little outlet if the smaller marketer of news evaporates.

    The situation today also differs from past models of news gathering, processing and dissemination in that delivery of news ‘items’ is lost. In the past a news organization (in print)could control the distribution of its product, the sale of a newspaper(in addition to advertising revenues) would cover production and distribution. Now distribution is in the hands of cable and other service providers, the computer user pays for access to information, but news service organizations receive none of those fees. Might there be more relationship between access and content? If not, can there a system generate news on a popularity mode of survival or is termed advertising (leave off the ability of individual to turn on or off exposure to such persuasion)?

    Which leads back to Walmart. Every item has its price and if that item has a demand (real or manufactured) and if its price is low enough, there will be no shortage of buyers.

    Maybe we should import our news gathering from China?

  35. Ed Sanders

    At the risk of repitition because I did not go through the above comments (lunch is ending soon), the value of the MSM is greatly exagerated. It saddens me to say that because I am from that world (now out).

    The fact of the matter is, a smart talented person who makes or has time (I’m talking to you Barry Ritholtz and Bill at Calculated Risk) does a much better job then the newspapers. Hell Sam Antar kicks their *** on occassion.

    CR is the best hard news source I have seen in many years. He may not think so, but he does original reporting on material items that the MSM can’t touch. Exacly who does a better job of giving a snapshot of the economy (rail and truck traffic, hotel occupancy, CRE info), and most of it is from the same sources a good reporter would use to begin with.

    Bloggers don’t really need a gatekeeper, and neither does anyone else.

    Well, maybe the lunatics who believe crap like they will be arrested for not filling out their census form, but the morons will always be with us, to paraphrase a phrase.

  36. mutant_dog

    There is some great, in-depth, well-written journalism out there; consider, as an example, the work of John McPhee in the New Yorker. The problem for daily, and sub-daily (TV, e.g.), is that the reporting cycle tends to be captured by – sync’ed to – the publication cycle. How rare and precious it is, these days, to see a story that took months of reseearch in any daily.

  37. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    We live in a world following ‘The End of The World.’

    Not many people, MSM or bloggers, as far as I know, are covering this new discovery – that there is a world after the end of the world.

  38. AK

    Want to add smth …

    Quality reporting and analysis is what attracts people.

    Blogosphere provides brave articles, which are to the point, against powerful interests of the ruling elite, based on true beliefs and principles (not on bribery), and written by curious and well-organized minds (since many authors do ‘real work’ besides blogging).

    So, this is why some economic bloggers like Yves increase their influence on economic life whereas many MSM decrease theirs.

  39. Jim

    The future role of blogs and their relation to the MSM raises the broader issue of the place and influence of intellectuals in the evolving structue of power in the U.S.

    The apparent assumption of many of the prominent commentators on this blog is that the old class theory of more or less orthodox Marxism accurately captures the present structure of power in the U.S.

    But an alternative perspective would argue that the last third of the twentieth century has seen the rise of a new post-industrial professional class which is gradually replacing the old indicies of class distinction with an alternative set of capacities centered around intellectual knowledge and linguistic ability.

    This managerial new class operates in both the public and private sectors(beyond antiquated left/right distinctions) and uses its cultural capital (knowledge)
    to secure a priviliged social position for itself while simultaneously arguing on a policy level for a greater centralization of its own political power through an expansion of the institutional reach of the public (think Federal Reserve and Treasury) and private (think J.P. Morgan Chase and Goldman)entities which it increasingly controls.

    For example during this recent financial crisis the creators of many of the derivative instrucments (CDOs and CDS etc.) were bright, young intellectual bankers with degrees from Cambridge, MIT and the London School of Economics who worked in the derviates department at then JPMorgan in the late 1980s and early 1990s (classic example being Blyth Masters, with an economics degree from Cambridge who later went on to become chief financial officer at JP Morgan Chase).

    This meritocracy believes it have a natural right to rule.
    The introduction of the internet intially benefitted this New Class (i.e the digital divide) but as many of the new networks of communication (ie. blogs) became more prominent they became potential threats to New Class control.

    Many of the financial blogs have contributed to a dymystification of the so-called experts in finance and economics which has in turn led to a potential inversion of that knowledge hierarchy.

    A question for the future–where will the intellectuals leading the populist revolt in the financial/economic blogs end up?

    They are beginning to experience efforts at recruitment into the post-industrial professional class and the symbolic service economy which is managed by this intellectual elite.

    Will this renagade blogging community of knowledge producers side with their intellectual peers who increasingly controll key public and private institutions or will they resist this move toward intellectual hegemony and political power?

    1. AK

      >> Many of the financial blogs have contributed to a dymystification of the so-called experts in finance and economics which has in turn led to a potential inversion of that knowledge hierarchy.

      Agree, initial “demystification” of Maestro Greenspan was done by bloggers.

  40. Eric L. Prentis

    The MSM “reports” corporate press releases as gospel, shills for the rich and powerful, and treats national political propaganda and spin as the truth. The MSM is anti-news, should not be trusted, nor read nor watched nor listened to.

  41. Robert Oak

    I think the entire new media business model, through technology, needs to be changed, as well as there are some “monopolies” that are causing revenue “repression”. As any of us know, to write up good content in a blog requires one to act as a Journalist and we do rely on accurate, paid Journalists, quite often. On the other hand, because of on-line content distribution, the general public can quite often “get to” the raw material as easily as any Journalist can. I also think the very obvious “plant” stories from lobbyists and corporations in the MSM created the path for print media’s disaster. Who wants to pay for glorified propaganda and spin?

    I actually have a lot of ideas on how to change the fundamental business/revenue model for on-line media, through technology if a big media corporation is interested.
    (although these ideas would be myself as technical consultant, not as economics blogger).

    Being an economics blogger is a hobby (now semi-pro), spawned by general disgust and outrage that the working stiff is getting economically pummeled. The U.S. workforce cannot get a word in edgewise on what they need and want or even what is really going on in the national economy.

  42. Greenguy

    The whole business model needs to be changed. It would make sense to set up public trusts and non-profits for the majority of the print media. The public airwaves should be taxed to provide a subsidy for the now publicly run or non-profit media. In the long run media should be taken out of privately controlled hands and put under control of media cooperatives and locales (this is the Marxist tendency in me but I think it makes sense). Blogs and communities should be allowed to set up locally run and funded TV stations, radio stations, and newsprint agencies.

  43. Vinny

    Should I want to be preached the “truth as it profits our parent corporation”, I’d turn with confidence to CNN, Fox, MSNBC, NYT, WSJ, and the likes. But I’m past that point in life, so now I get real news analysis and “reading between the corporate media lying lines” from serious blogs such as this one.


  44. JimmyJ

    The death of Neda Agha-Soltan is a good case in point that the eyes and ears of 4 billion people, aggregated by blogs is replacing the elitist, politically biased MSM and dedicated reporting.

    New technologies are replacing older models of content distribution for copyrighted works in all media primarily because the internet completely replaces dedicated specialty distribution. Its no surprise that those vested in older distribution models are fighting tooth and nail.

    The only way I can see to monetize the internet is to look at it like a utility where content providers could be anyone, not merely elites or large corporations. Individuals could generate original watermarked content and distribute it into the internet, and payment would occur by implementing usage fees, established by monitoring watermarks, that get distributed to the rights owners and the distribution network owners proportionately. Content would have to have a watermark for ownership that registers as it passes through the internet. Alteration of the watermark would constitute fraud and would be prosecuted.

    Theres no doubt that watermarking packets would profoundly increase the density of net traffic, which in the short term would slow things down, but improving distribution technologies would lessen this. Ownership would be established at source and watermarked appropriately. Watermarks could be managed by utilities commissions, syndicates or trade guilds depending on the political decisions in each jurisdiction. Treaties would bind this all together.

    The alternative is the current class war where corporate elites wage war against their own consumers. Change will come, all we have to decide is what the cost will be in human suffering.

  45. Fair Economist

    I’m late to this fight, but I think the “information” aspect of economic news will have to shift to government-mandated reporting. We see a lot of that already. The information that has served as the meat for blogging on the housing bubble and the economic crash has largely been government reporting such as foreclosure reports and the leading economic indicators. Insofar as we use nongovernmental sources it’s mostly academic sources like case-schiller or industry trade organizations.

    So the future path will probably involve more government-mandated reporting. News is a classic social good so that’s really no surprise.


      Unfortunately, and as far as the MSM is concerned, government influenced reporting appears to be a feeble attempt for control over the present day perceptions of reality. Although, I do not see it as the likely candidate for the longer term future of “news”.

      You see, we can gather basic data from government mandated reporting, but we cannot receive the reliable analysis, or the connecting of the dots, that is required in order to form a reality based opinion, based on these same scattered bits and pieces being provided by mandated data reports. And this is precisely where the MSM has failed itself, as well as its consumers, miserably. Rather than provide a logical and thoughtful analysis, they continually seek to distort, twist and re-shape the big picture of the dots/data, all-the-while arrogantly telling the client, both directly and indirectly, that they’re too stupid to understand the implications of the bits and pieces of data, as well as the big picture.

      The information age, and its applications, allows for a leveling of the playing field…thankfully! Like water flowing to its lowest point, information and opinion has now been given the ability to follow the unlimited pathways of a free market. Literally, the world is flat! I’m not paying a dime to read through the thoughts of other intelligent people on this or other blogs, and for the most part the information is both interesting and useful.

      Given this free market structure, natural selection is allowed to weed-out the homogenized, templated, garbage and spin of the larger corporate and governmental message interests being dispersed from the current media outlets.

      In my opinion, MSM as old, corrupt, and rotten at its core…my guess is that I’m not alone in this opinion. Quick sound bites such as “and the Big Board dropped again today, Tom” and “recession, recession, recession, Jane” are neither news nor analysis. Words have meaning, and we’re not a bunch idiots. And damn it, I don’t give flip about Chris Mathews’ tingly feelings in either or both of his legs.

      It’s both fantastic and comical all at once. MSM is being eroded by homegrown bloggers and the free will and intellect of the average person with an internet connection and/or website…world-wide, baby! Like the pride before the fall, we are observing the dilution of the influence once held by government and corporate media. Two oxymoron’s now being pushed as the answer to all problems by both government and media: 1.) a control economy is the answer, and 2.) social economic justice is just. Both are simply a method and means of control and power for both groups. They will ultimately fail, as even a temporary success can’t stop an inevitable collapse. When the self interests are removed from a society, there will be nothing left to lose. Now , consider the freedom of that (again, collapse).
      The hope must be for MSM to keep up the good work, a quickining of the pace if you will. Keep working that slanted angle. The water will continue to flow until a true leveling effect has been reached, all boats will rise and we’ll all be better off as a result. Of course we should also anticipate a value, or pricing, effect on the best of the best data and analysis for the future of news. Again, the free market will demand compensation for the highest quality available.

  46. OpirMusic

    Two possible answers:

    The “news buffet” model. In this model, many news organizations band together and share in the profits (based on let’s say, page views) from a single subscription service. The customer gets access to many sources, and the news orgs get some revenue.

    The “expanded Bloomberg” model. Direct-for-profit bloggers and downstream news orgs pay for direct access to news data (from actual reporters paid by an AP or Bloomberg). AP and Bloomberg would obviously need to seriously lower their rates or have a sliding scale to make this work. Everything else kicks the news bucket.

Comments are closed.