Game-Changer: How the Online News Revolution is Altering the Media Landscape

BusinessWeek is updating a cover story it did three years ago on how the impact of blogs is changing the media landscape and asked me to weigh in. Here is what I sent them:

I am frequently asked if the rising influence of online news sources is the death knell for Big Media. My answer is that Big Media isn't dead; it's ill but will actually be saved by the transfusion of passion and immediacy of the blogging and online news revolution.

The growth of New Media journalism has served as a wake-up call. A wake-up call the industry, after years of yawning and repeatedly hitting the snooze button, has finally started to heed. The result will be a journalistic hybrid combining the best aspects of traditional print newspapers with the best of what the Web brings to the table. We're getting a glimpse into this hybrid future with the many changes afoot at Old Media places like the Washington Post and the New York Times, and from New Media players like, well, like the Huffington Post.

We've seen the New York Times recently and enthusiastically embrace the notion of blogging, and the Washington Post has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into its digital operations -- and as a result gone from being a largely local paper with a print circulation of around 650,000 to an international digital news source attracting over 8.5 million online readers a month.

And just as Old Media players are embracing the ways of the New Media, some in the New Media are beginning to perform some of the key functions formerly reserved for the media establishment -- namely breaking major news stories and offering original reporting.

Equally exciting is the fact that technology will continue to give readers more and more control over what kind of information they get, and how that information will be presented. The days of publishing pooh-bahs dictating what is important and what is not are over. And thank goodness. Because the big question has always been: what page will today's real front page story actually appear on? As the legendary journalist I.F. Stone once said of the Washington Post: it's a particularly exciting paper to read because "you never know on what page you will find a page-one story."

The debate that has been dominating journalistic circles for the last few years has been print vs. online -- but, in fact, that discussion is totally obsolete. It's as musty as the old barroom argument about Ginger vs Mary Ann. It's 2008, why not have a three-way? Traditional media have ADD -- they are far too quick to drop a story -- even a good one, so eager are they to move on to the next big thing. Online journalists, meanwhile, tend to have OCD -- we chomp down on a story and stick with it and stick with it and stick with it, refusing to move on until we've gotten down to the marrow.

The shifting dynamic between the forces of print and online reminds me of the relationship between Sarah Conner and the T-101 in the Terminator movies. At first, the visitor from the future (digital) seemed intent on killing Sarah (print). But as the relationship progressed and the sequels unspooled, the Terminator became Sarah and her son's one hope for salvation. Today, you can almost hear digital media (which for some reason has a thick Austrian accent) saying to print: "Come with me if you want to live!"

The hybrid future is kicking down the door. It's time to let it in and fully embrace it.