Insomniactive: another smart blog

Last week/year I endorsed Gina Chen’s almost brand-new blog, Save the Media; the next thing I knew, it was recommended by Tim Windsor and then by Jeff Jarvis. (And Gina went on to put up three more very smart, don’t miss posts— 1 2 3 — while most of the rest of us continued to protract our holidays as long as possible.)

So let me suggest another addition to your RSS reader: John Thornton’s blog, Insomniactive. John is a veteran venture capitalist in Austin, Texas, whose thoughts have been turning more and more in the direction of journalism, new media, and business models for news. He has been involved in a few media-related startups like Vignette and Ignite.

Insomniactive is written with flair and offers an informed perspective on the media business from someone not directly involved in the field, and supplies, as a bonus, interesting views on a wide range of other economic and political matters.

Recent Insomniactive posts of particular interest in to the journoblogger audience:

Sam Zell, the f-word, and Microeconomics 101: “Barriers to entry such as printing presses and and distribution networks–not rock star journalism– made newspapers obscenely profitable for decades. Public service journalism was the tail, not the dog. And unfortunately, this particular pooch is now too old, tired, and sick to do much wagging.”

If I were the God of Newspapers, on why Peter Osnos is wrong to suggest that the New York Times Company divest itself of the the Boston Globe: “My inner Newspaper God suggests just the opposite: Let the Times Co. continue to run the slimmed down Globe and the local dailies with their eye 100% on the bottom line, as should be in the case when you’ve taken on these pesky critters called ‘shareholders.’ Don’t sell the Globe; sell the Times. Sell it for something like $1b to a group of shareholders to run it literally as a public trust.” (And another post on the same subject reacting to Henry Blodgett’s view that the Times needs to shed 40 percent of its newsroom cost.)

See you in the Pink Sheets: “No doubt, 2008 was annus horribilis, [like] none ever experienced before in the newspaper industry. But with the exception of a couple dozen properties, 2009 may well be annus ultimus–the year that the newspaper industry as we currently [recognize] it ceases to exist, much as 2008 was the year Wall Street became no more.”

So, what’s the solution? Thornton is hinting at the non-profit option in this intro to a manifesto: While we’re very interested in business and very interested in journalism, we have concluded that serious journalism is a lousy business and that business principles are lousy for serious journalism. Clergymen are fond of saying that when you mix politics and religion you get politics. The mix of serious journalism and business is even worse: it yields businesses that aren’t worth investing in.”

When “Good News” Could Hardly be Worse, on the vaunted new primacy of online news reading over newspapers discovered in recent polls: “You see, the online news outlets of the future are shaping up to be–and it grieves me to say this–a bunch of grubby, cruddy, marginally profitable little businesses. Entry costs are essentially zero, technology and inventory abundance is shifting power to the advertiser at lightning speed, and there’s less than no correlation between quality journalism and quality of earnings.”

Finally (and most recently): What a Novel Concept, building on Jay Rosen’s advice to “cut to a sustainable level and build from there.”

And, yes, John Thornton likes News after Newspapers, as well. I’d be endorsing Insomniactive even if he didn’t. Welcome to the conversation, John.

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