News 2.0: Can Journalism Survive the Internet?

By Martin Hirst | Go to book overview

10
Who pays the
messenger(s)?

When it came to commercial TV or major metropolitan
newspapers … They were remarkably lucrative oligopo-
lies—quite literally licences to print money.

Mark Scott

For nearly a century the archetypal media barons held a near monopoly on the world’s news with a business model that effectively controlled all access to a mass audience. It was a commercial gate through which advertisers had to pass, as well as an information gate through which news was filtered. For most of the 20th century, newspapers in large metropolitan centres were able to make money from their control over classified advertising: automobiles, real estate and employment advertising in particular. Consumer advertising has also been a key force for the last 150 years. Throughout the 20th century, many media organizations, particularly in tele vision, were able to maintain an unprofitable and expensive news division as a brand-building loss-leader. They did so knowing that the political influence of news credibility was worth the profits foregone. The commercial, political and cultural influence that came with a respected media property is one reason why Rupert Murdoch could afford to run loss-making papers like The Times in London, The Post in New York and for many years The Australian. However, all this has changed in the last decade. In some cases, the traditional agenda-setting function of professional journalism and corporate news organizations is being overtaken by public relations practitioners, blogs,

-165-

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