Jeff Jarvis stirs up debate over function of newspapers


Jeff Jarvis stirs up debate over function of newspapers
Jeff Jarvis stirs up debate over function of newspapers

Jeff Jarvis, in the most recent addendum to his latest polemic, Google as the new press room, says: “I’m causing confusion aplenty”. He sure is — thinking as the responses to his latest post come in.

Not unusual for Jarvis. The centre of his argument is that newspapers are bad at technology so they should get out of it and Google is brilliant at technology (and selling ads) so it should be left to them (and others who whom work can be outsourced).

He writes: Newspapers are in the wrong businesses. They should no longer be in the manufacturing and distribution businesses — which have become heavy cost yokes — and should no longer try to be in the technology business.

They’re bad at it. It is an important argument and you really need to read the whole post, the three (at the moment) later additions and the comments. As the debate develops the Jarvis’s argument become clearer, as in this: LATER STILL: Adrian Monck fears that we’re setting up journalists as merely suppliers and then — as he knows from the TV biz — that becomes a business of controlling costs.

I didn’t express it well enough then. In this view, Google would not run the site; the paper would run the site and still control the content, advertising, brand, and relationships. Google would just be the backshop, the infrastructure.

Now we are getting somewhere. Many newspapers, particularly the smaller ones, have not been able to get the technology right but also, I believe, have been too tied to conventional ideas of audience and a flow of editions to tell web developers what they really need. But I doubt if the solution is to hand the manufacturing and distribution to the biggest space buyer in the business.