Marketing guru Seth Godin turns his sights once more on journalism and on what will happen when (he says when, not if) the newspaper is gone.
He thinks that the content of the paper is easily replaced online, that nothing will be missed in such areas as sports, weather, book and theatre reviews.
What's left is local news, national and investigative coverage, which he claims represents a very small percentage of a newspaper's overall costs. He puts the cost at two per cent. Strangely he doesn't identify international coverage or wires as part of the package.
I've seen criticism of his post's economic analysis already, but I think he's not that far off in terms of how local reporting, investigative work and national wires and services represent a smallish percentage of a newspaper's (as opposed to a newsroom's) overall costs. I wouldn't say two per cent is right, but I wouldn't put it in double figures.
Godin notes that online there isn't the same degree of journalistic cross-subsidy that exists in print.
"If we really care about the investigation and the analysis, we'll pay for it one way or another. Maybe it's a public good, a non profit function. Maybe a philanthropist puts up money for prizes. Maybe the Woodward and Bernstein of 2017 make so much money from breaking a story that it leads to a whole new generation of journalists."
On the other hand: "The magic of the web, the reason you should care about this even if you don't care about the news, is that when the marginal cost of something is free and when the time to deliver it is zero, the economics become magical."
Of course the advertising piece of the puzzle is not nearly magical. It remains disproportionately meagre compared to conventional advertising in terms of the value it places on a consumer. Something magical needs to take place in that realm soon.