100 articles – ‘How to save the news’

6 June 2010

Written by: Lawrie Zion

‘How to save the news’ by James Fallows

The impact of Google on the 21st century mediascape has long been a matter of widespread concern. But in this fascinating cover story for the June 2010 issue of The Atlantic, veteran journalist, pilot presidential speechwriter and one-time Microsoft program designer James Fallows argues that there’s grounds for optimism that Google could be a constructive part of the solution to the economic vialbility of journalism.

The company’s ultimate ambition, he suggests, is compatible with what media workers and the public want, namely, ‘a reinvented business model to sustain professional news-gathering.’ Now we’ve all heard about the imperative for new business models before, of course. Why should Google provide grounds for hope?

Well they won’t for printed newspapers, for which the future remains bleak. But for their publishers there are prospects for business renewal through innovation in distribution, engagement with audiences, and monetisation. After exploring some of the initiatives Google has been developing, Fallows concludes that much more online ad money can flow to news companies, and that subscribers can and will pay for content. He also argues that Google’s involvement in the quest to realise this outcome will be buoyed by it’s belief that the survival of ‘premium content’ is vital to its own welfare.

If he’s right, then journalism and Google do indeed have some common objectives, and perhaps more of a shared future than some of us have so far imagined.

Lawrie Zion is editor-in-chief of upstart and Journalism coordinator at La Trobe University. He also once worked for Microsoft. More on our ‘100 articles’ project, including details of how to contribute can be found here.

Discover more about James Fallows and his writing here.