It’s all unproven, but there are some things that we know. We know that people don’t really care that much what the traditional media thinks is important. They care a little bit about it, but you can see from our actions that people are looking for content about the very specific interests that they have—their neighborhoods, their diseases, their hobbies, their whatever. Any business model that’s based on trying to be a small number of things that we are all interested in, is going to pretty small. There isn’t a whole lot that we all have in common.
DD: What’s the future of news as you see it?
JG: Having spent a lot of time in this industry, I’m not at all concerned that there will be the loss of investigative journalism. I actually find it very funny that people think that’s a risk. Only because it’s quite obvious when you meet these folks that they will do it for free. People kill themselves to get into journalism, and no one gets paid a lot of money anyway. So, this idea that you need this traditional newspaper model is completely false.
Now the bigger question is, “Do you need the brand of a newspaper to do investigative journalism?’ Well, maybe, but the track record on that is terrible. We’ve just gone through the ultimate proof test. We just fought a war that didn’t need to be fought and people were just unaware. So, if it’s the case that you need big media brands, what were they doing?
Remember that newspapers and the major television networks are the last content organization site that are composed of full-time workers. Hollywood, until the 1940s, was composed of studios. People were employees of the studios, and then over time they figured out that was not the best way to do this. We should have people just come together to make movies; then we have the best people for the best movie rather than the people who just happened to work for the studio. And the studios became funders, and the management agencies represented the talent, and the management companies packaged the products, and it became this much more complex ecosystem of players that put projects together and brought them alive.
My guess is that something similar will happen with news. And, by the way, in some small way it already has. It will just take a while for these businesses to get essentially destroyed and for that new thing to get built.
I think the odds of there being less investigative journalism in the world are zero. I just don’t think there is any evidence that that will happen. Just walk through your bookstore.
DD: If investigative journalism is here to stay, what will it look like?
JG: Either small groups of writers will team up or there will be a single writer and you will develop an affection for them—through whatever, the Facebook recommendation of a friend or a discovery engine—and you’ll follow that person and you’ll care what they have to say. Think about how you follow bands or movie stars.
If you’re going to see a Megan Fox movie, do you really care that it’s being made by 20th Century Fox? Individuals involved have a lot more to do with the movie than the guy who owns the studio. That’s definitely true with newspaper articles.
The entire history of media is a tradition toward developing affection for individuals. That’s not just the Web, that’s Oprah, that’s Limbaugh, that’s pundits. Think of record labels. You might have a feeling toward Motown, and every once in a while there’s a record label that matters, but basically you like the band.
Every successive wave of technology has democratized the creation of journalism and with that the ability for more and more people to participate. And all that’s done is increase the power of individuals versus institutions. And, given the choice, people would rather relate to people.