Sunday, February 27, 2005

Courtesy of Libertarian Girl/Guy, I picked up on this Wired article that claims the WSJ is devolving into nothingness.

Me disagrees. First, there's the automatic discounting of anything the new media guys claim. They've been wrong so many times, on so many things, that anything they say ought to be looked at with a healthy degree of skepticism. Remember how portals was going to sweep the decks? Remember how it wasn't portals, but paid content that was annointed the next great thing? For how many years have we heard 'paper is dead'? For how many years have we been hearing that 'if you don't have a web strategy, you are nothing'? Give it a break. There have been many, many, many more millions lost by online publishers than has ever been made - name one publisher of online content that makes money (exclude those operations that feed off a profitable print based model and exclude those who had a viable business model, like Lexis-Nexis, who merely moved from dial-up access to web-based access). I don't believe there are. Salon? TheStreet.com? DrKoop. com? Nope. The internet CAN be an important part of a business strategy. But it is not an end all in and of itself. Just because a handful of twenty-somethings want to sit around a Starbucks reading their news online doesn't mean that print news is dead, any more than the emergence of the blogosphere means that the MSM ought to be looking for new jobs.

That aside, and remembering that even blind squirrels find an acorn every now and then, remember that the WSJ makes money not because of their news, and whether it is on or not on the web, but because, like any newspaper, they gets lots of dollars in advertising. But unlike local papers, whose revenue from classified advertising is threatened by on-line sites, the WSJ isn't in a similar position. There is no on-line equivalent of what the WSJ offers its advertisers - namely, the only national business daily publication that reaches such a high powered audience (compare the annual income of a WSJ reader to that of a WIRED reader). There is no on-line equivalent of the WSJ's readership (cheap shot: WIRED sure doesn't match up) - what other outlets for the WSJ's advertisers is there? Where else do those advertisers turn if they're trying to push high-priced real estate, franchise opportunities, and yachts. Where else do businesses wishing to make a splash turn to? Anytime an HP or IBM wants to announce to the world that they are doing something right, they take out three pages in the WSJ. I can't see IBM buying banner space on Google to announce that their services group just landed a new client. Or for Microsoft to run pop-ups on ESPN.com to announce their new Windows release. The WSJ offers their advertisers a certain degree of prestige that isn't available anywhere else, at least not on a daily basis.

Sure, some day the WSJ's readers might prefer to read their financial news on a handheld device while training in from the suburbs. But until that happens and until the technology exists to do that (not the half-baked stuff that exists today), the WSJ is actually exercising some fiscal discipline by not wasting money. Let the others go out and burn through their bank accounts (just how much/little money is BusinessWeek making with their site, anyway?).