OLD Media Moves

Taking issue with David Carr's burial of business journalism

November 2, 2009

Robert Teitelman, the editor of The Deal, writes Monday that New York Times columnist David Carr is too simplistic in his commentary that suggests we’ve hit the end of traditional business journalism.

Teitelman writes, “What has not occurred here is that a vast audience of consumers for business news has not evaporated, or as Carr would have it, slumped off to other preoccupations. They exist, perhaps in greater numbers than before (look at the dynamic business, financial and economic blogosphere, which is undoubtedly younger and seemingly more plugged-in than the traditional older demographics of the Big Three, or consider everyone’s contrarian case, The Economist). Besides, large portions of this audience may well become aspirational again, given a conducive climate (Carr seems to assume the current bearish situation will remain a very long time).

“So the aspirational aspect may well be cyclical. But the fragmentation engendered by the Internet is secular; it’s not going away, and it may well be deepening. The real problem of Big Three is how to tap those deep wells of interest and expertise out there, each one served by often-expert and well-informed Web sites, bloggers, data services or news operations. How do they find that sweet spot where the reporting is deep enough and enticing enough to attract a large enough audience craving perspective? How do they tie daily Web operations to deeper magazine reporting and narrative writing? At the end of the day, the problem comes down to finding that spot in the middle of a large, hungry and informed audience and giving it something that they want in, yes, an attractive, even a glossy package. Then you have to do it in a cost-effective way and figure out how to sell enough advertising.

“Maybe it’s a little less aspirational. Maybe it’s a lot more defined and a lot less condescending to what Carr calls ‘Average Joes.’ Maybe it depends far less on newsstand sales, which is the magazine equivalent of roaming herds of Internet clickers. Maybe it challenges a bit more than treating readers like children, with highlighting, lots of bullet points and simpleminded advice. There’s nothing wrong with aspirational, if it’s legitimate. There is a lot wrong with aspirational that resembles a Hallmark card. If the business magazines do die, a few too many Warren Buffett covers probably won’t be the reason. Not being smart enough in a very complicated world may be.”

Read more here.

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