The silly season

The silly season is supposed to be in late summer, and here we are in late winter. Yet we are right in the middle of the silly season, judging from the preposterous nonsense being peddled as "solutions" to the "death of newspapers" crisis. Lately I'm seeing ideas that fall into one or more of several simple categories:

Ideas from aging printies who apparently fell asleep in 1994 and just woke up. This includes most of the paid-content and microcharging nonsense, and just about everything written in the last 12 months by a "columnist."

Ideas from people who can't count, or can't be bothered to count. For example, let's shut down the printing presses of a thousand or so profitable newspapers and walk away from 40 billion dollars or so of annual revenue just because some guy who got rich quick in the first Internet bubble says we should.

Ideas from people who believe in the tooth fairy. If we just put some Adsense under our pillows, Google will come in the night and leave enough dimes and quarters that we can buy rice and beans. Or maybe we can put a gun to the tooth fairy's head and make her pay for linking to our sites. Or maybe the tooth fairy will just buy us.

Ideas from personal agenda-pushers. This is a pretty broad category, ranging from media-haters to fame-seekers to consultants pimping their products and services.

None of this is useful.

Edison said genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. I'm a lot more impressed when somebody actually tries something and discovers what works, and what doesn't.

I'm grateful to Bloomberg News, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and several dozen small-town daily newspapers for demonstrating that consumers will pay for scarce, high-value business information but not general news or even great columnists, at least not in sufficient numbers to make it a business worth pursuing. I'm delighted that Bob Cauthorn discovered how employers will pay for "Top Jobs" ads. I'm glad Belo showed us both the promise and the difficulties of scale inherent in behaviorally and demographically targeted local online advertising. There are hundreds of other examples rooted in perspiration, leading to both success and failures, but always learnings.

An ounce of empiricism beats a pound of bloviation. It would be nice if the new crop of commentators took a moment to review what's actually been going on for the last 15 years, and informed themselves of what's actually happening right now. But I suppose that's my own case of wishful thinking.


How about a ton? For example, whatever happened to convergence? Remember all of those discussions about how we should create content and how we can enhance it? Sheeee Anyway, from someone "pimping products and services," you're welcome for the interesting failures and I appreciate your being impressed actually trying something and discovering what works, and what doesn't. (The gripe I got today about my new project is that while it could make some money, the publisher is too busy trying to sell what they already have. And, you know, even there is no upfront cost, they don't want to waste time on something is not certain.)