The Future of the News Business: A Monumental Stream of Noise

Finding signal in noiseMarc Andreesen predicts the news industry will grow 10x to 100x over the next 20 years (link).   That's great if you are a media publisher, but not great if you leverage information for business advantage.  For these people, like our clients in the bond markets, the challenge of sorting the important information from the noise is going to get a lot harder.   Andreesen cites compelling trends for his predictions about distribution shifting from locked down to wide open; and newspapers, broadcast TV, cable TV and wire services all colliding on the internet.  He also claims the market size is growing, with many more people consuming news today than 10 or 20 years ago.  I think he is correct on all counts.  The bar for journalism has dropped significantly from a high standard to self-publishing. The result is a fast-growing flow of information published on blogs, YouTube, Twitter, Vine - we've really just begun.

But what's the cost to the news consumer? It means more articles from more sources and more often.  As our clients in the muni bond industry know, there's already too much to stay on top.  How will we go forward?   This is a significant business hurdle and those who master it will enjoy great competitive advantage.  If you run a company that gets an advantage through information, i.e. knowing more than the other guy, the cost of culling the wheat from the chaff is going to go up.  We can assume everyone will read the obvious large publishers - that's a level playing field, instead the advantage goes to those who can find nuggets of insight in thousands or millions of other publishers.

Consider the turmoil from Puerto Rico's debt crisis.  If you wanted to read all about it, you can Google it and get several million links to read.  But what if you wanted to stay on top of the latest information about Puerto Rico, Inyo County hospital, and the Orlando Airport Authority?   You could Google variations of these words several times a day to see if anything new happened.  What if there are 20 things you need to watch, or 100, or 1,000?   Trying to stay on top of just a few topics reported across thousands of sources will bring people to tears quickly.

The point Andreesen makes is clear.  The amount of media published is going up fast.  Automated intelligence gathering that can be personalized to specific business needs will grow along with it to separate the valuable signal from the noise.

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