Monday, January 17, 2011

The Eternal Search for a Better Online Mousetrap

Following up on our recent town hall meeting on the future of jazz journalism, held as part of the APAP Conference in New York City, I was struck today by this quote from Ken Auletta's profile of AOL CEO Tim Armstrong in The New Yorker:

"Relying on Web advertising was a promising business idea ten years ago, when advertising rates appeared destined to climb endlessly higher as it became possible to target ads precisely for narrower groups of consumers.... But Web businesses have come to realize—as online newspapers and magazines have—that they need a second revenue source, whether it is e-commerce or paid subscribers."

Very true, and a succinct explanation of why we still don't have a viable online outlet for jazz journalism that actually pays its journalists. Will we have one by the time that an estimated 130 million North Americans own tablet computers by 2015? If not, things will be grim for jazz journalists—and for those (I know you're out there) who enjoy their work.


Anonymous said...

I'm not convinced that jazz journalism needs to rely on for-profit entities such as newspapers or online magazines to survive.

Writers ought to be reaching out to kindred spirits within the jazz community itself -- there are sympathetic ears in well-monied fields such as nonprofit arts presenters, journalism nonprofits, academia, as well as musicians and music promoters themselves.

The more we wring our hands about the future of newspapers (something that is COMPLETELY beyond our control) the less time or energy we have to start seeking out creative solutions for the new era of journalism and jazz writing in which we currently reside.

Most important, though, is that as long as we're continuing to produce invaluable and passionate writing about the music, we still have an excellent foundation. This leaves me with much more optimism than these Debbie Downer businessmen (AOL, seriously? Not exactly a model of innovation in 2010 ...)

James Hale said...

Alex: I didn't editorialize on that New Yorker quote, but you summed up my own feelings on the matter. I've made a point of finding new ways of monetizing what I'm good at/what I like—including crossing the street to provide communications counsel to a large jazz festival and leading the marketing campaign for a university jazz program—and I think that's where the future lies for people who have traditionally counted on print for their income.

Regarding the quote itself, it came from Ken Auletta, the author of the piece. And, to give AOL its due, it's now in the hands of a former business head from Google, so it's in the process of significant change and, yes, some innovation.

Anonymous said...

My dismissiveness wasn't directed at you, James -- indeed, you're an excellent example of how jazz journalists need to be thinking to continue to thrive.

When AOL can come up with a reason to be relevant to me again, I'll be all-ears...