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'Net Insider


Is there only a Googlezon in our future?


By Scott Bradner, Network World, 06/20/05

Scott Bradner


Observers keep saying that the 'Net changes everything. Well, maybe not everything - it does not change the temperature to which you have to heat raw materials to make steel - but the 'Net does change a lot of things. Even though many changes are underway, it is not yet possible to predict with any certainty what they will amount to, say 10 years from now.


But that should not stop people from thinking about possible scenarios.


Let's take for example the printed news business. Newspapers, news magazines and other printed publications including trade journals such as this, have been furiously trying to figure out how to live with the Internet even though some fear it will kill them in the long run. recently published its second annual review of the state of the news media . The report is not all that encouraging, and not just because of the impact of the Internet, although that is a major factor. The organization found some major trends in journalism, including a tendency to move to "faster, looser and cheaper" modes of operation; that the rise in partisanship was less than expected; and that mainstream media were not increasing investment in Web-based news distribution. The study concluded that journalism has to move from being a barrier to news to taking on the role of a transparent and expert authenticator or referee.


Most of the more than 1,400 daily papers in the U.S. have not done much to explore the power of the Web. A few, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, have been attempting to figure out some way to make money and protect their print revenue streams.


These two papers have taken very different paths. The Times requires registration but almost all of its content is free on the Web (The Times is about to start charging for some content, but news will stay free). The Journal charges for its Web content. Both have been successful, but with the Times getting about 2% and the Journal about 3%, neither generates a significant part of its annual revenue from Web operations. The best you can say about the efforts of the news media to date to embrace the Internet as a change agent is that they have been cautious. Neither the Journal's closed fee-for-access (which blocks Google and other search engines so you don't know that there is a story you want to read) or The Times' mostly open mode can be seen as inspiring visions of the future. One vision of what the future might hold comes in the form of a 2004 mock documentary . It predicts that by 2015 Google and Amazon will have merged to create Googlezon, a provider of individualized news, and will have driven the Times offline.


"All The News We Think You Want" - that does not have quite the same ring to it.


Disclaimer: Harvard cannot limit itself to the information it thinks a student wants and actually do its job, but the above review is mine alone.


Bradner is a consultant with Harvard University's University Information Systems. He can be reached at


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