I’m trying to research for a post about Amazon’s Kindle and the history of distributing news.
The impetus came from Steve Rubel, who argued on Micro Persuasion that newspapers should put their material on Kindle posthaste. I started wondering about the implications of journalists entrusting a third party — in this case, Amazon — to deliver their content. What happens if, for example, journalists find success with Kindle distribution, but then Amazon decides Kindle isn’t profitable enough to keep producing? This argument would extent, of course, to any medium controlled by a person or organization other than the journalist (Facebook? Google?).
Then I started asking myself, “how much has changed from when newspapers ruled? Were they at the behest of advertisers, or even the newsprint companies, in the same way as I worry they are with Amazon? Were there key similarities?”
I don’t have any answers to these questions, but I think they could lead us in a few different, though certainly not mutually exclusive, directions.
One possible conclusion is that the Kindle’s dangers mean journalists should make every effort to diversify into every possible distribution outlet. They need to monetize as many of these as possible as well — not too many loss leaders allowed here.
Another possibility is that journalists should use as much open source software and open file formats as possible. This would mean that they retain some fungibility over where they could bring their work (assuming Kindle is not open enough that my news story formatted for Kindle won’t be much good going to some other device).
Or this may have to be a purely philosophical exercise. If Rubel is correct, then journalists don’t have the luxury right now to be choosey in distributing their work. They have to take what they can get.
Does anyone have reading suggestions to start?