FTC hearings: Arianna Huffington
This is a page from rough, contemporaneous notes of today's U.S. Federal Trade Commission workshop: "From Town Crier to Blogggers: How Will journalism Survive the Internet Age," held Dec. 1-2, 2009, in Washington, D.C., at the FTC's 601 New Jersey Avenue offices. Your scribe is Bill Densmore, a fellow at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism. Of course we've tried to provide accurate quotes and summaries. But the FTC has stenographers recording all of the testimony and that should be your definitive source. The home page for this coverage is http://www.newshare.com/wiki/index.php/ftc
She quotes her Greek grandmother (jokingly) to dig Rupert Murdoch: "Never bet on a company that takes itself out of Google."
She says desparate times produce desparate business models and desparate times require jouranalism.
"Suddenly the air is full of shrill completely unwarranted assaults on new media." She repeats her oft-repeated position that Murdoch can turn off Google search by a simple command. "Having Glen Beck not searchible in Google is a good thing for the world."
Information is hardly the same thing as beer.
Murdoch: "He confused in his speech aggregation with wholesale misappropriation." We link to the Wall Street Journal daily. "We have never had a single complaint . . . we drive a lot of traffic to them and we like it."
The Huffington Post has 250 original blog posts a day and original reporting. But aggregation within the fair use exemptions of the copyright law "is part of the web DNA, period."
"It is not a zero-sum game. It is what Jeff Jarvis says is the link economy."
Most people complaining the loudest are working both sides of the street.
News Corp. owns IGN which includes Rotten Tomatoes aggregator site, including movie views culled together from other papers.
"Talk about having your aggregation cake and bitching about others having a slice, too."
"While promiscuity is not a good thing in relationships, it is a great think in news." "This is a golden age for news consumers."
"It is time for traditional news companies to stop wining." She says they put cash flow in front of journalism -- they were pleasing Wall Street instead of pleasing readers. "THey were asleep at the wheel, missed the writing on the role, left the train at the station, let the ship sail -- pick your metaphor."
She reads from a website that gives some statics illustrating that the web now dwarfs newspapers. (Citation not heard.)
- Newspaper circulation down 7 million.
- Web nes pages up 34 million in last five years.
- One trillion pages pages, 100,000 iPhone apps.
"We are not in Kansas anymore, Tot!"
Desparate times lead to desparate revenue models
OK, here is my second point:
Fantasies about breaking up with Google and tying up with Microsoft. She says this isn't going to happen.
The strategies of the charge for content group: First pay walls, then micropayments, then per-article purchases, then day passes. Only 3% of consumers say they prefer the micropayment method.
"People are only going to be willing to pay for specialized financial information in weird form."
She says free news content is not a perfect system. It is not without problems, but it is here to stay, "and publishers have to figure out how to come to grips with that and make it work for them."
She says Huffington Post investigative fund is following a model of supporting serious journalism. They are producing open source investigative journalism available to anyone in real time.
"We can't use an analog map to find our way in a digital world."
Desparate times call for better journalism
She subscribes to six newspapers a day. THe question is not the future of newspapers but the future of journalism. A future can be found among the people who connect with the news in a whole new way. "We now engage with news, connection with news and share news," she says. "We are all part of the evolution of news, now. In short, the news has become social."
Her final point: She doesn't understand why the contributions of non-paid bloggers and citizen journalists are constantly derided and mocked. Writing blogs, sending tweets, unloading videos, making music, "are just a few of the active entertainment options available to people." Traditional journalism belittles.
- Don't understand Wikipedia contributors for free
- Update Facebook pages for free
- She lists other examples
"And they need to understand that if they are going to understand the future of journalism," she says.
She says they will hire more and more reporters at Huffington Post as their advertising revenue expands. But she says they will also post more citizen journalists -- unpaid. Their value is incredible, she says. "So the sooner we all embrace this brave new world, and put aside the increasingly desparate metaphors ... and revenue models ... the sooner we will be able to focus on what really matters at this conference ... ensuring that journalism will be strenghtened and thrive."