Competing without even trying to

My old colleague Richard Siklos, who now writes for the New York Times – he and I worked together as summer interns at the London Free Press in picturesque London, Ontario a couple of lifetimes ago – has an interesting piece in the NYT today called Death by Smiley Face, in which he talks about “purpose-driven media” and how it is creating no end of problems for regular old media like newspapers.

Jeff Jarvis thinks it is kind of old hat, and of course he is right, but it’s still worthwhile seeing the Grey Lady writing about it. My favourite part is where Richard writes:

These are new-media ventures that leave the competition scratching their heads because they don’t really aim to compete in the first place; their creators are merely taking advantage of the economics of the online medium to do something that they feel good about. They would certainly like to cover their costs and maybe make a buck or two, but really, they’re not in it for the money. By purely commercial measures, they are illogical.

As I commented on Paul Kedrosky’s blog, this gets to the heart of what newspapers have trouble getting their heads around. Craig Newmark of often seems slightly baffled when people single him out as the guy who is killing the revenue side of newspapers, because it’s not like he set out to kill newspapers. He’s just using the natural economies of the medium to do something he sees as worthwhile, which kind of defines “purpose-driven media.”

The fact that what Craig and others are doing is taking away printed media’s bread and butter is almost beside the point. And the fact that he doesn’t even care whether he makes money at it just rubs salt in the wound.

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