Once upon a time, publishing (especially newspapers) had a really nifty model. They could serve the public interest and bring useful, educating and entertaining content to the general public by funding it with a simple combination of subscriptions, classifieds and advertising. They even got to the point where they felt comfortable not only giving the public what they wanted, but what the public needed.
Then, slowly for some (but very suddenly for publishers who boasts 150+ year runs) the money wandered off. The classifieds went to places like Craig’s list, Match.com and Hotjobs. The web made readers feel that paying for content was unnecessary. Advertisers were already being seduced by TV’s rich and sexy messaging.
Knight-Ridder moved to San Jose, in hopes of scenting which way the wind would blow from next; New York Times took a page from Innovator’s Dilemma and spun out a digital company to take advantage of the new medium. But still they struggle to hold their place. Kids today just don’t like blackened fingers…
The platform is still slipping. Content creation, in particular, is in danger. Sites like Digg, blogs, metafilter and others make their name by pointing at other’s work, and adding in the bias of choice (mock the right, jeer the left.) Will the web soon be a series of links pointing to links, half-baked ponderings and opinionated garbage like what you are enjoying now?