ONA takeaway – Dear news company: Your ad model is dead.

The Online News Association annual conference in Boston this past week has already been analyzed by a billion of its thousand attendees, and it’s been interesting to see the various takes.

Many posts have been very positive, filled with excitement, inspiration and idealism for the future.

This is not really one of them.

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I’m alive! Yay! And the publisher’s tipping point.

Bad day for Bugsy. That’s apparently the name of the server which crashed at Dreamhost and took my site away for a loooong time. I’m sure you missed me. I can tell. But don’t be sad, you didn’t miss much. My morning time was spent discussing Google Books and the Christian Science Monitor – both of which have been sufficiently batted about the blogosphere, so I won’t even bother throwing up my superficial observations from the AM.


Image via Wikipedia

But the whole Monitor thing has me wondering how much longer it will be for a tipping point in the media moving to online-only platforms. We’ve had small papers – the Capital Times in Madison, the Cincinnati Post, and so on, but the Monitor is the first big name to go online-only. (John Yemma, by the way, who is leading the charge there, is one of the nicest people on earth, and I want to see the new venture succeed because, hey, he deserves it.)

I have an image in my mind of water eroding a wall. There is a small leak now, displacing some gravel and with the Monitor, a good size pebble. But it doesn’t take a lot more pressure to dislodge larger chunks of the wall, and pretty quickly, what was once a wall has a massive breach. Newspapers won’t completely vanish – not right away – but where is the limit, when major metro dailies are taking 10% hits every year and big chains are laying off thousands?

And I’m not even acknowledging the pressures on TV – maybe because they are hitting too close to home, or because the future is slightly less clear. But the multimillion dollar investment in DTV transition couldn’t come at a worse time for broadcasters, especially small ones, who don’t know where to pick up the revenue they are losing as they stare down the barrel of the recession.

These are scary times. But also exciting – because even as we see the demise of traditional media forms, we are seeing a world of new opportunities for journalists and journalist-wannabes, for community builders and advocates. I’m hoping that I am on the path to seizing that future.

So, that’s the stuff I might have said this morning on the air. I didn’t. But we live in an interesting time. And maybe when I have more time of my own, I’ll get some more concrete thoughts on paper.