Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Mainstream Media to Webheads: Thanks for the Free Content!

Yesterday, in the wake of the amazing U.S. Airways Flight 1549 story, I suggested that the chief benefit of Twitter and “citizen journalism” reports is that they’re very, very fast. That speed is why Twitterer Janis Krums, who took that amazing photo as his ferry headed over to pick up passengers from the downed plane, is now an instant celebrity. Did you catch him on “Good Morning America” today?

But this morning I got a missive from an employee at one of the cable news networks, who tells me I’ve got it all wrong. Speed is nice, but these days, there are other considerations that are much more important for media companies:

It’s not the speed of Twitter photo that’s remarkable. It’s that it’s FREE. In the past, we would have got that pic from one of the agencies. We didn’t need anything from the agencies yesterday. Anything we couldn’t get from our own crews, people sent us FOR FREE.”

See? Who says old media have been slow to adapt to the Web?

There are some Webby start-ups premised on this idea, too. NowPublic, notably, is trying to organize amateur reporters and photographers into something resembling a newswire, or at least an interesting site. But those guys still have to figure out how turn that into a business.

But the big guys already have a business. It’s a pretty good one, too: Selling TV airtime to advertisers for a lot more money than the Web guys will ever hope to get. And if they can squeeze a few more dollars out of free Internet content, via outlets like Twitter and Time Warner’s (TWX) CNN iReport site, so much the better.