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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

The Information

December 9, 2013

Jessica Lessin, ex-WSJ reporter, has launched The Information after collaboratively reporting via her own WordPress-powered personal blog for several months.

Why? She writes.

Technology news needs a reboot. There are more stories and outlets than ever, but a troubling cycle is playing out:

  • The race for pageviews and ad dollars is causing publications to focus on quantity over quality.
  • Coverage is consolidating around attention-grabbing topics, like the latest hot startup or celebrity CEOs. Publications are wasting time writing and regurgitating the same stories again and again.
  • Media outlets are relying on sensational headlines or idle speculation, not original reporting, to make their versions stand out.

The Information, launching today, is our first step towards building a publication that operates differently. We’re a team of reporters and editors who have learned from the best in the business, and we want to challenge ourselves to write better articles that break new ground. Period.

I’m sure we all agree with her. And I’m also sure many in the reporting field do also. The tough part is making a business of it. Good reporting isn’t easy. It isn’t cheap either. Some stories take months to track down. It will be interesting to see if her team can make this happen longterm.

I struggle to see which model is truly better for the consumer; the ad model or the paid model. The ad model, as Lessin describes, does force the news outlets to do things which I don’t much care for as a consumer of news — large ads on the page, many ads on the page, pop ups, take over ads, sensational headlines, speculation, etc. — but the ad model allows me to afford to read every news outlet’s take on a particular story because it is “free”. The paid model means I can only choose one, perhaps two, main news outlets to subscribe to each year. The Information costs $400/yr. After reading Lessin’s work over the last several months on her blog I can say that is very affordable and will be worth it. But how many “The Informations” could I possibly subscribe to?

I’m looking forward to seeing, over the next decade or so, how all of this shakes out. My guess is it will shake out the same way news did in print. There will be several well-respected closed news subscription services that make it, and a bevy of ad-revenue-powered news outlets that continue to do business. The question will be, for anyone starting a subscription-based model outlet, will they be one of the few to make it?