Fracturing Media to Help Small Online Publishers

The Financial Times highlights that nearly a half billion dollars was recently raised for tech and media investments, but Drama 2.0 highlights how some of the web 2.0 companies that raised capital are still losing money 4 or 5 years after being founded. The NYT highlighted how companies like AOL are nichifying their publishing businesses, which could be cause for worry for some mid-market players, but should not worry passionate publishers.

The business cycle: Someone has a good idea - creates a company - creates a movement - creates profit - gets corrupted - becomes what they despise (leaving an opening for the next person with a good idea).

In many businesses financial interests eventually exceed the purpose of the business in importance. Which leads to ethical decay and sleazy behavior. Corner cutting starts off small, but keeps growing until the house of cards collapses. The small print keeps getting smaller until it creates a big deal:

The letter, posted on the FDA's Web, notes that the ad presents risks associated with the drug in "extremely" small type that fails to adequately convey the serious risks connected to the product. Humira's label carries a black-box warning, the FDA's strongest, that details risks of tuberculosis and other infections, some fatal.

Some companies are founded on lies. Some businesses are only profitable because they lie. Some industry organizations exist exclusively to perpetuate lies. Some industry spokesmen are no better than whores - selling their mouths to the highest bidder.

As marketing becomes more integrated into the web, the web becomes more integrated into our lives, attention becomes more scarce, media is dominated by public relations talking points, and more scandals are surfaced by the glut of information, the need for (and value of) people who are willing to speak the truth keeps increasing.

I pay ~ $100 a year to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal. I would pay well over 10 times that to access Barry Ritholtz's blog (if he charged for access). If a company stays small it does not need to keep finding (or creating) additional growth...there is no need to work the books or lie to the public to please investors.

Markets have never been free, but small businesses do not need to ignore big risks or hide the truth due to "political realities."

In circumstances where there is even the slightest chance that the result of failing to deal with a possible situation would be the death of the world, then, if it wishes to survive, the human race has no option but to take whatever action is necessary to deal with that situation, however unpleasant and difficult that may appear to be, and to take it at once.

They don't need to let money become the master:

Money becomes a tool and a means to an end rather than something that controls you. For most people, money becomes so important that it clouds judgment with regards to ethics, it breaks or makes relationships, and can devastate lives (winning the lotto or going broke). The less focus on money, I’d argue the more you are able to control money (and not let it control you) the more you are able to generate more income. Very non-intuitive, but true.

Instead of worrying about money or competition, online publishers need to worry about creating the mood.

Published: January 12, 2009 by Aaron Wall in business


January 13, 2009 - 1:24pm

Great job of blending ethics with marketing advice. It's inspiring, because I'm looking to do the same in future writing projects.

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