Wall Street Journal columnist Holman Jenkins has a terrific, wide-ranging interview with Google CEO Eric Schmidt in today's paper that is well worth reading. One thing worth highlighting is Schmidt's comments on the "economic disaster that is the American newspaper." He argues that, "The only way the problem [of insufficient revenue for news gathering] is going to be solved is by increasing monetization, and the only way I know of to increase monetization is through targeted ads."
Absolutely correct. It's a point that Berin Szoka, Ken Ferree and I tried to make in PFF's mega-filing in the FCC's "Future of Media" proceeding in early May, and Berin and I stressed it in even more detail in our piece on"Chairman Leibowitz's Disconnect on Privacy Regulation & the Future of News." The key takeaway: If Washington goes to war against advertising -- and targeted advertising in particular -- then there will be no future for private news. As we stated there:
The reason for the indispensability of advertising is simple: Information (including news and other forms of "content") has "public good" characteristics that make it is very difficult (and occasionally impossible) for information-publishers to recoup their investments. Simply put, they quite literally lack pricing power: Whatever they charge, someone else will charge less for a close substitute, inevitably leading to "free" distribution of the content, even though the content is anything but free to produce. Advertising is the one business model that has traditionally saved the day by rewarding publishers for attracting the attention of an audience.
Incidentally, Google recently submitted comments with the Federal Trade Commission in reaction to its Staff Discussion Draft about the future of journalism and laid out their views on many of these issues. More importantly, as summarized on pg. 30 (of the pdf) of this Newspaper Association of America filing to the FTC, Google has proposed an interesting monetization model that utilizes Google Search, Google Checkout and DoubleClick ad server, "to build a premium content system for newspapers." Worth checking out. Kudos to Google for taking these steps and to Schmidt for again stressing the importance of targeted advertising for the future of media.