Easier said than done

I owe an apology to Tom Glocer. In discussing a speech he gave last week, I wrote that the Reuters CEO had implied that traditional media’s role in the future would be essentially that of “an enabler of the MySpace world.” Glocer has a column in this morning’s Financial Times that appears to be based on his speech. It’s clear, in reading his article, which is titled “Old Media Must Embrace the Amateur,” that I oversimplified his points considerably. (I guess that’s what I get for relying on the report of a live-blogger with an agenda. Shame on me.)

Glocer is a little too fond of faddish techno-platitudes, but his vision is not of a future in which professional journalism becomes the handmaiden of amateur journalism, but rather of one in which both exist in harmony, each supplementing the other’s strengths and countering the other’s weaknesses. I share Glocer’s hope – though not his optimism – that this is how things will work out in the media business. I’ve been pigeon-holed, by some, as being “anti-amateur” because I had the temerity to point out the shortcomings of amateurs – and the advantages of professionals – in my post The Amorality of Web 2.0 last year. But, as I wrote back then, “I don’t want to be forced to make [a] choice” between amateur and professional content; I, too, value and desire both. My fear, as I explained, is that the internet is shifting the economics of media in favor of amateur-created content, and that, as companies respond to the new economic incentives, the amateur will gain hegemony.

Glocer doesn’t address the difficult economic issues in his column. He sidesteps the question Martin Nisenholz posed at the start of that conference last week: “How do we create high quality content in a world where advertisers want to pay by the click, and consumers don’t want to pay at all?” In fact, Glocer simply glosses over the economics. He writes, to his colleagues in “old media,” “There is no doubt that our businesses will be stronger if we employ a more collective and open-minded approach to content.” That sounds inoffensive enough, but the “no doubt” is facile. I hope Glocer is a little more forthcoming and concrete when he talks to Reuters employees about media’s allegedly rosy future.