News: Is It Worth Anything in the Digital World?
The Internet is a vast sea of information. In that way, it is no different than
the real world. In fact, the Internet is in some ways, a much more narrowly
constrained, well defined set of information than exists in the real world.
I am interested in looking at the answer to the question "What sorts of news
content and delivery will people in the digital world find valuable?". There
are a variety of very nice sites giving out free news, and some which are
paying for it. These sites are a good starting point at answering the burning
question. However, it is quite likely that the structure of news organizations
and news reporting itself will change, so to answer the question, I must
define "news" very widely.
I am going to propose several criteria or characteristics of news delivery and
content which are good ways at picking out what is of value to news readers and
what is not.
The Value of news is that it comes quickly. Common sense and history tells us that old news
is not something anybody really values. How timely does the news delivery need to be? For hundreds of years
Western society relied on print delivery mechanisms which took on the order of a day or more to reach the
consumer. With television that time dropped to hours or minutes. The Internet promises almost instant news delivery.
How much will people value the time advantage that the Internet gives over other electronic (though non-digital) media
like TV and News?
Most of the news Americans get from areas geographically far away areas are gathered
and disseminated by large media institutions such as CNN, the New York Times, or the major
TV networks. They build their businesses on accuracy (though some would argue with this proposition)
and reliability. In a digital world, where barriers to entry and costs are low, there are
potentially many many more players. Accuracy will surely become a characteristic of a news
delivery channel which will become more and more visible in the eyes of the news consumer.
Linked to accuracy, authority is the ability of a news channel to acquire confidence in the news it
puts out. It is the ability of a news organization to garner respect as the preferred channel for a
particular type of news. The Wall Street Journal is, for example, considered an authority on
One only has to look at pseudo-news programs as "Inside Edition" and "Hard Copy" to see the value
of presentation in the delivery of news. In the digital environment, the ability to package and
present news in ways which appeal to particular consumers will create value for the channel in cementing
relationships with those consumers. Just like the staid Wall Street Journal appeals to the conservative financial
world, and Wired! appeals to hip digerati, certainly the presentation of news will be a major index of value in the
Some say customization will be the largest added value in news delivery in the digital
world. This category is the most nebulous since it really has no analog in the real world. However, there is and
will continue to be great deals of innovation here.