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How to recognize a winning Web content model

Paul GrahamLike many reporters, I’ve read dozens—no, make that hundreds—of articles and reports on the (doomed) fate of newspapers and magazines in the digital era. But by far the simplest and clearest essay I’ve read is Post-Medium Publishing by Paul Graham (shown left).

My favorite part of Graham’s essay is his test for recognizing what new forms for publishing content will be winners.

When you see something that’s taking advantage of new technology to give people something they want that they couldn’t have before, you’re probably looking at a winner. And when you see something that’s merely reacting to new technology in an attempt to preserve some existing source of revenue, you’re probably looking at a loser.

There’s nothing in 2010 I’m more looking forward to seeing than which journalism start-ups are funded by Y Combinator, Graham’s venture firm, which specializes in schooling early stage startups, especially Web operations invented by early 20-somethings.

Last year, Y Combinator specifically put out a request for creative ideas in re-imagining journalism, starting with a for-profit business model and then fitting the journalism to support it. Graham’s hunch is that targeted Web advertising will fund such projects.

Here’s hoping.

UPDATE: April 2010: The startup has launched! It’s called NewsTilt. It’s still a work in progress.

We have become so far removed from the notion that writing might have a cash value, that by simply suggesting the idea, Graham sounds like a visionary.

[image niallkennedy/Flickr]

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