Monday, March 9, 2009...7:09 pm

Is journalism screwed if kids won't even pay for Facebook?

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Joshua Benton at the NiemanJournalismLab believes journalism is, effectively, screwed because no one these days will pay for anything online, especially the young who have grown up with the free online content.

If you’ve grown up in a free online environment, paying for digital content isn’t just a pain — it’s unthinkable.

This is absolutely true. Shockingly – at least to oldies who think paying good money for things like music and newspapers isn’t utterly outlandish – the lives of the young students he interviewed at an upscale college revolved absolutely around Facebook. Yet they were totally unprepared to pay any money at all for it. (Which is kind of OK, because Mark Zuckerberg is kind of totally unprepared to make money from it too, as noted here).
So where does this leave us? (Apart from terrified of looming unemployment).
I think Chris Anderson has it about right in Wired magazine. He argues that ‘free’ is the future of business:

Just because products are free doesn’t mean that someone, somewhere, isn’t making huge gobs of money

The question for us is whether that someone is us (journalists/publishers) in an environment where not only content is free, but also the costs of publishing – and video- and audio-casting are also close to zero.
The key is to change our thinking about what journalism and publishing are, as fast as media technology is itself changing.  But once you get over the idea that journalism involves being paid a monthly salary plus benefits by a big corporation to work 9-6 on material that you don’t even know anyone is consuming are gone I think.
It’s a big challenge for everyone in media now. But look at the Commoncraft video production team – basically two people in a Seattle basement who have seized on the web’s new free video publishing services to start a video training company.
Bite-sized videos offer a beginner’s guide to the slew of social networking and other web offerings in order to build usage. All of this stuff is free – the sites, the videos, the video hosting – yet there is an income to be had from corporate users or those who want to use them in training.
So – you want to make money from free? Be creative. Create value. But don’t whine. Nobody likes a whiner…
[HT David Thomas]

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