I do not underestimate the tests before us. We may never become true digital natives, but we can and must begin to assimilate to their culture and way of thinking. It is a monumental, once-in-a-generation opportunity, but it is also an exciting one, because if we’re successful, our industry has the potential to reshape itself, and to be healthier than ever before.
The fittest survive, as always, by adapting.
He understands the “digital native” who “doesn’t send a letter to the editor anymore. She goes online, and starts a blog. We need to be the destination for those bloggers.” And, indeed, he sees a role of bloggers in relation to traditional journalists: “we may want to experiment with the concept of using bloggers to supplement our daily coverage of news on the net.”
He is cheerful about profit, quoting Bill Gates: ” the internet would attract $30 billion in advertising revenue annually within the next three years.” (Perhaps we won’t need to rely on newly coined relatives of Jonathan to pay for bandwidth!) The internet “allows us to be more granular in our advertising, targeting potential consumers based on where they’ve surfed and what products they’ve bought.”
On a more pessimistic note, he observes that “What I worry about much more is our ability to make the necessary cultural changes to meet the new demands.” He notes that “[s]tudies show we’re . . . more trusted by the people who aren’t reading us.” He observes what those of us holding certain opinions have noticed with growing irritation: “the percentage of national journalists who have a great deal of confidence in the ability of the American public to make good decisions has declined by more than 20 points since 1999. Perhaps this reflects their personal politics and personal prejudices more than anything else, but it is disturbing.” He notes a harsh truth of business: “[t]his is a polite way of saying that reporters and editors think their readers are stupid. In any business, such an attitude toward one’s customers would not be healthy. . . . Even if the economics of journalism work themselves out, how can journalists work on behalf of a public they are coming to see as less wise and less able?”
The blogosphere leads Murdoch to the optimism of Whitman, seeing it as a “teeming nation of nations,” where the net encloses Murdoch’s old journalism and the blogger’s new: “I am large, I contain multitudes.” Others, those who see that 20 points as not a problem of the journalists but a reflection of the general stupidity of the masses, find blogs a bit vulgar, their raw and undisciplined vitality that of the rowdy lower classes.