Posted on | September 4, 2013 | 1 Comment
Reflections of a Newsosaur
MUSINGS (AND OCCASIONAL URGENT WARNINGS) OF A VETERAN MEDIA EXECUTIVE, WHO FEARS OUR NEWS-GATHERING COMPANIES ARE STUMBLING TO EXTINCTION
By Alan D. Mutter
Like many others, I was distressed to learn that the Chicago Sun-Times fired all 28 members of its photo staff, as the casualties include such cherished former colleagues as the Pulitzer-winning John H. White.
“How can they do that?” asked a number of journalists, friends and readers who called or wrote to express their outrage. “Yes, it’s awful,” I agreed. “But, actually, it’s easy.” Here’s why:
Notwithstanding my profound personal respect for photojournalism and photojournalists, the fact is that relatively cheap, reliable and easy-to-use technologies like smartphones, Photoshop and Instagram make it possible for anyone, anywhere, anytime to shoot, sweeten and share a picture whenever the impulse strikes.
The explosion in citizen-generated images has been, well, explosive. The number of photos published to the web is running this year at 530 million per day, or more than a 10,000% increase over the 5 million pictures put online each day when the iPhone debuted in 2007, according to Mary Meeker, a partner at the KPCB, a leading Silicon Valley venture firm. It is important to note that the chart below illustrates traffic at only Facebook, Flckr, Instagram and Snapchat. Plenty more images are turning up in lots more places.
It’s not just photos. YouTube reports that 100 hours of new video are uploaded every minute, as compared with 10 hours of new video per minute back in 2007. That, of course, is a tenfold increase.
Even those who dozed through Econ 101 should know that rising supplies reduce the price that consumers are willing to pay for everything from apps to zucchini. For those who snoozed a bit too much, here’s what you would have heard:
When a marketplace is flooded with a particular product or service, the primary factor determining the value of the item in question is how much of it is available. Economists call this phenomenon “commoditization” and the affected goods and services are called “commodities.” Example:
Because one bushel of wheat is as good as another (the fancy word for this is “fungible”), the only matter left to decide in the fast and furious action at the Chicago Board of Trade is how much a bushel is worth at a particular point in time. When wheat is in short supply, prices rise. When there is a surfeit of wheat, prices fall.
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Alan D. Mutter is perhaps the only CEO in Silicon Valley who knows how to set type one letter at a time. Mutter began his career as a newspaper columnist and editor at the Chicago Daily News and later rose to City Editor of the Chicago Sun-Times. In 1984, he became No. 2 editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. He left the newspaper business in 1988 to join InterMedia Partners, a start-up that became one of the largest cable-TV companies in the U.S. Mutter was the COO of InterMedia when he moved to Silicon Valley in 1996 to join the first of the three start-up companies he led as CEO. The companies he headed were a pioneering Internet service provider and two enterprise-software companies. Mutter now is a consultant specializing in corporate initiatives and new media ventures involving journalism and technology. He ordinarily does not write about clients or subjects that will affect their interests. In the rare event he does, this will be fully disclosed. Mutter also is on the adjunct faculty of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley.