In the recent past the standard model of information distribution was one that had a few top-down nodes. There was print, television, and radio. Journalists collected a salary from the institution (obviously there were prominent exceptions in the form of famous columnists, but these were numerically not significant), which tasked them with specific beats. This traditional model is coming under great pressure, and to some extent dissolving. I don’t keep track of journalism, as such, because I’m not a professional journalist.* But it’s hard to avoid the headlines which chronicle layoffs, as well as the reality that professional journalist’s are being undercut by high quantity and (often) low quality content. Combining this with the fact that the null model of a free internet in terms of media access is likely to be undermined quite rapidly in the near future, and we’re in for some restructuring and updating of expectations.
One change has been the rise of subscription only emails by several young journalists. I subscribe to Conor Friedersdorf’s The Best of Journalism. Now in a recent conversation with Michael Brendan Dougherty Friedersdorf describes the former’s baseball newsletter, The Slurve.
A site called Quartz is going to go live today. I have been hearing a lot about it in the media (e.g., The New York Times). One of the people who launched ScienceBlogs, Chris Mims, is involved. I’ve seen a guideline for its freelance writers, and I have to say that I’m impressed by the flexibility and openness to variation and personalization that it communicates. Not sure if it is revolutionary, but I suspect that it will be quite the content machine. And the emphasis on tablets and mobile access via a browser, rather than an app, is probably the best way to optimize readership.