JG: I think there are a lot of interesting things about Twitter. Twitter dovetails very nicely with marketers’ desire, after years of frustration, to have a direct relationship with their potential consumers. You don’t use the middleman. I’m going to be a great source of information on travel or shoes and people will come to me. Again, marketers are doing that everywhere. The thing with Twitter that’s so interesting is that you can do it so inexpensively. It’s the easiest to use platform, it’s the cheapest to use platform. It’s just incredibly viral, so your content gets spread wide without a whole lot of effort on the marketers’ part.
DD: Twitter as a source for news and marketing has a lot of verification problems, doesn’t it? Have we fooled ourselves into thinking that people care if their information is verified?
JG: I think people care. I don’t think the reputation of the media is in such high regard that they would be the solution to that problem. Verifiability is a very big problem. Twitter effectively created a lot of those problems. But, it’s not clear to me that, if The New York Times created a Twitter account, that people would assume that everything on there was true.
DD: So, if it is by far the most valuable marketing platform, is Twitter “it” for funding news content?
JG: No, nothing’s “it.” What’s it is that you turn on your device and—based on topics and places that you are interested in—it tells you that trusted sources have new information for you and you can basically see through those trusted sources in real time as they are interacting with the world.
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.