Comments: Outsourcing != Democracy

I think you are on to something here in the sense that a great deal of what the "professional media" does is simply spin. And spinning, having opinions, doing investigations, finding facts, is now within the reach of virtually anyone who has a blog and a decent internet connection. (Much as people profess to hate Matt Drudge, he has several million readers a day and breaks news which mainstream media pick up.)

Being a guild, mainstream media will fight this trend. But there is nothing they can do to contain it.

And wait until someone puts together a newspaper which is essentially a couple of wire feeds and twenty bloggers spinning merrily for .20 cents a word. No dead trees. The software is already here.

But I am not at all sure this means more power to management. Or media owners for that matter. Once the vexed issue of micro-payments is sorted out, and it will be, there is every chance that the dead tree and broadcast folks will be left with, er, dead trees and dead air. Or so I hope.

Posted by Jay Currie at January 12, 2004 12:44 AM

Jay: Micropayments have never worked, despite many, many tries, so I would never assume them!

Again, my point is that cheap, unskilled, labor generally isn't associated with good political outcomes (except from the corporate point of view).

Posted by Seth Finkelstein at January 12, 2004 12:24 PM

I'm not really sure what you mean by 'unskilled' labor. If this post is a contrarian response to the Gilmoore article the other day, then you can look at's winners to see if that looks 'unskilled'.

You seem to be defining unskilled as 'unorganized'. It would also place all of the Linux hackers into the 'unskilled' pool.

You need more to back up your claim that this democratization is going to concentrate more power at the top. As it stands your only argument is that you want to be a contrarian.

Great, now back it up with something.

Posted by Wah at January 13, 2004 01:19 PM

I agree with Jay: this is neither democracy nor outsourcing. (But I also agree with you: micropayments are unlikely to ever work.)

You can only call this "outsourcing" if USA Today lays off all its reporters and then hires a team of Indian copy editors to assemble a newspaper composed entirely of reprints from the blogosphere.

Posted by Seth Gordon at January 13, 2004 02:12 PM

Wah: I was using "unskilled" in the formal sense of "not needing special training or expertise". After all, what's being celebrated is precisely the reduction of skill and expertise needed to product the same product.

Generally, when this happens, it shift more power from labor to management, due to the fact that the labor pool greatly increases in number, unless there's some offsetting factor. This is a pretty standard model, and the argument is not that it happens, but how good/bad is all the shift (which we're seeing here)

SethG: I don't think "outsourcing" has to be "offshoring" - the two have been discussed together recently, but aren't synonyms. And actually, some of the "citizen blogger" hype comes pretty close to make the newspaper from blog reprints, it's just lacking the "Indian" part (outsource American?!)

Posted by Seth Finkelstein at January 13, 2004 11:28 PM

If the pool of available labor expands, but the pool of available managers remains stable, then yes, management gains relative power. For example, you couldn't have had the great robber barons of the Gilded Age without the railroad and telegraph, because those were the tools they used to keep track of all their subordinates. Wal-Mart is the 800-pound gorilla of retail beause they use a lot of cheap unskilled workers who dare not breath the word "union" and they have a very sophisticated inventory and supply-chain management system.

So what "management" class is empowered by the growth of blogs? Google? ISPs?

Posted by Seth Gordon at January 14, 2004 10:05 AM

I think there's a further shift to editors and syndicators. Not that these groups were weak earlier. But I suspect they've come out ahead, in terms of being able to pay writers even less than before.

That is, where before there was an editor and an employee reporter, that will become the editor and several "freelance" (i.e. unpaid) "civic bloggers", the latter being the equivalent of journalistic day-labor.

Again, these trends aren't new. But I think they'll be intensified, and in fact people are proclaiming they will be intensified, just in a kind of inverted way of describing it.

"You can now get rid of the paid journalist and just select from the cheap labor!"

is exactly

"The democratization of me-media is overthrowing the oligarchy of interpretive monopolization!".

It's just a matter of perspective :-)

Posted by Seth Finkelstein at January 15, 2004 05:39 AM