The Future of Content

[Paul Graham][pg] is proof positive that usually the best writers are some of the best thinkers. (We have done ourselves a terrible disservice by separating the two, but that is for another time.) Not only is Graham one of the best essayists at work today, he is also someone who knows how to find solutions to problems. Witness his most recent challenge:

> RFS 1: The Future of Journalism

> Newspapers and magazines are in trouble. We think they will mostly die, because we think we know what will replace them, and it is too far from their current model for them to reach it in time.

> And yet people still need at least some of what they do. You can’t have aggregators without content. So what will the content site of the future look like? And how will you make money from it? These questions turn out to be very closely related. Just as they were for print media, initially. The reason newspapers and magazines are dying is that what they do is no longer related to how they make money from it. In fact, most journalists probably don’t even realize that the definition of journalism they take for granted was not something that sprang fully-formed from the head of Zeus, but is rather a direct though somewhat atrophied consequence of a very successful 20th century business model.

> What would a content site look like if you started from how to make money—as print media once did—instead of taking a particular form of journalism as a given and treating how to make money from it as an afterthought?

> (The good news is, we think the writing will actually end up being better.)

> Groups applying to work on this idea should include at least one person who can write well and rapidly about any topic, one or more programmers who are good at statistics, data mining, and making sites scale, and someone who’s reasonably competent at graphic design. These functions can of course be combined, and in fact it’s even better if they are. Ex-Googlers would be particularly well suited to this project.