Understanding Why Generalist News is a Commodity

In my last post about how contextual advertising targets the weak and poor, I promoted the idea of niche publishers shifting to sell niche products and services directly as a better means of monetization. Dan Root asked why many of the leading news sites are dropping their pay walls. The answer is that future relevancy is driven by the point to economy, and news is a commodity.

The business models for news companies rely upon regional based monopolies that are quickly eroding.

Domain names and community activity largely supplement or replace the need for much of the generalist news or syndication based business model. I used to live in State College and talked to the guy who owned StateCollege.com. The local paper was doing worse and worse every year, and with a small aggressive staff, better technology, more interactive ads, and a great domain name beat them.

And the news that is worth money spreads fast OUTSIDE OF the pay wall. Does WSJ want the pageviews for breaking a news story, or do they want to see the TechCrunch post about the WSJ story get those pageviews?

If you do not think news is a commodity take a look at this image. It says it all, IMHO.

Published: December 21, 2007 by Aaron Wall in publishing & media


December 21, 2007 - 8:35am

That image is rather telling. I started noticing things like this on the local news a few years ago. Most nightly news carry at least one story related to the prime time shows that aired earlier in the night.

The commercials for the news during prime time will invariably preview the story related to that particular show.

Not long after I started seeing this I stopped getting my news from television.

Andrew Johnson
December 21, 2007 - 4:24pm

Here is an example from the other side of the commodity picture. Do a search for "britney spears" on Google News, the #1 story about her sister has currently lists "all 2,033 news articles." Thats a lot of competition for something that has a shelf life of 24-48 hours.

December 21, 2007 - 9:51pm

Great point Andrew. They all print the same crap. Nobody will care in a few days, and only a few of them will get any residual links and residual rankings.

That raw number also shows just how easy it is to pump out the news. Like how many of those articles contain interviews vs how many are just rehashes of the few that may have had 5 minutes of research done to create them?

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