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EVEN THE WEB GUYS DON’T KNOW THE ANSWER: What is the future of media? On an Internet Week panel sponsored by I Want Media and convened to answer that vexing question, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey offered a clue that might not hearten the journalistic faithful: He said the number-one type of search on Twitter is what he called “the vanity search” — for one’s own name or company, for example. And Bonnie Fuller said Twitter meets an “enormous need people have to be stars in their own lives,” comparing it to a tryout for a reality show.
But Gawker Media head Nick Denton admitted to surprising himself with his latest take on the media landscape: that original content is ultimately the most effective and will prevail. Gawker began, he said, when aggregation was rare, but now that curation is everywhere, the goal is to offer something new.
And it’s not all self-regard out there. Denton, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, and Wall Street Journal deputy managing editor Alan Murray all said they had come to use Twitter as an aggregation tool, following trusted sources and their links to news items. “It turns out my friends are pretty good at curating news,” said Newmark. Dorsey himself said that what Twitter is missing is “a narrative….Getting into a mass repository with no context is overwhelming.”
As for who’s going to pay for all of those news sources’ overhead, Murray argued newspapers had mistaken their most popular content for their most valuable content, citing The New York Times’ short-lived decision to charge for its star op-ed columnists. And while no one has truly figured out what readers will pay for online, Murray pointed to the example of community newspapers, which are often buoyed by exclusive local sports coverage that consumers might value enough to pay for. Moreover, while around 16 million daily readers pass through to sample the Journal’s content online, he said, there is a core of about one million who are willing to pay, which might be enough. But Denton said he would never charge for Gawker Media content, and anyway, writers hate the seclusion behind a pay wall, because, he said, “We are all egomaniacs.”
— Irin Carmon