Friday, April 22, 2005

'Stand alone' journalism and the trade press

There's a fascinating discussion on Jay Rosen's Pressthink blog about Chris Nolan's concept of "stand alone" journalism. In brief, Nolan predicts a rise of high-quality journalists who work without the support of traditional publishers. Blogging software, Nolan says, gives journalists their own means of production, freeing them from the need to sell work through a middleman. That has the potential to create a new subset of the press -- journalists without employers.
I agree that people like Andrew Sullivan can make a living selling general interest news to a general population. But I'll predict here that these new "stand alone" journalists are most likely to come from the specialized business press, where customers will pay high rates for quality information. Trade journalism is already filled with folks such as Ralph Wilson and Richard Brock, who make money publishing specialized B2B newsletters.
I've said here before that traditional B2B publishers need to be aware of the competitive threat posed by their readers. Thousands of people in the B2B audience already have the tools to launch a competitive product -- expertise, sources and publishing software.
Traditional B2B publishers also face a "stand alone" threat from their own editors and reporters. The Web and blogging makes it much easier for someone to strike out on his own, using the sources he met while working for a trade publication, and cashing in on his own reputation as an expert. If you're a trade publisher, look across your newsroom now at that guy. You know the one. He's been there for 20 years. Before that he worked for your competitor. He knows everyone and everyone knows him. He speaks at trade shows, gets all the story tips. He has become, in a very real sense, synonymous with your brand. And ask yourself: what would happen if he left to start his own business?

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