One way of looking at the financial problems of the media industry is in terms of the huge increase in supply that’s driven down prices. In the last 25 years, technology has enabled the creation of multi-channel radio and television. The number of magazines has increased, although that may not last. And newspapers have grown massively in size, if not in quantity.
But it’s the internet which is having the most profound impact. The cost of launching a new satellite television channel or printed magazine is now only a few thousand pounds, but the cash required to put something new on the web is little more than zero – although that doesn’t account for the hours that need to be put in to make it work.
The point is that even small-scale, low-budget start-ups can compete with large media companies.
This may sound slightly familiar to older readers. Twenty-five years ago, what was then called ‘new’ technology was supposed to allow limitless newspapers to blossom once the print unions had been ‘smashed’. What we got was Today, the Indy and the Sport. In reality, barriers to entry for anything new remained, mainly in the form of distribution and space on newsagents’ shelves.
The web is different. It simply isn’t possible to erect such financial barriers. There are hundreds of examples of small companies that have grown from nothing to massive in little more than a decade.
More interesting to us as journalists is the way the internet means information, tools and facilities, which were recently only available within large offices, can now be accessed from home.
There can be few hacks who now don’t have broadband and at least one computer knocking around the house. This is a development that’s only taken place on a large scale within the last five years.