The Internet is providing the biggest change in the way people receive news and information since Gutenberg developed the movable type printing press in the 15th century, according to Dave Kansas, an Internet media pioneer who spoke at the Missoula Art Museum Monday afternoon at an event hosted by NewWest.Net.
The founding editor of the online financial news site TheStreet.com, former deputy online editor of WSJ.com and Money & Investing editor of The Wall Street Journal, Kansas discussed the evolution of Internet journalism and its relationship to traditional media.
Kansas was dubbed the “$9 Million Man” by The New York Times after TheStreet.com went public, but the company soon fell victim to the dot-com crash of 2000, which erased some $5 trillion worth of market value in Internet and tech-related companies (and virtually all of that $9 million).
When Kansas was launching TheStreet.com a little more than 10 years ago, it was a time he called the “dark ages” of the Internet.
“It was a really scary and exhilarating time back then,” he said, remembering when no one at The Wall Street Journal had email addresses and there was a single computer in the corner of the newsroom with Internet access. Then, everyone thought “only bad things came from the Internet,” he said.
Of course, things have changed.
“We’ve entered another leg of the Internet revolution today,” said Kansas, currently leading a Dow Jones and InterActive Corp. joint venture called FiLife, a personal finance site geared toward young people to be fully launched in May.
One of the keys to online innovation is ever-increasing bandwidth, which is allowing for smoother Internet access, video integration and increased file sharing. It’s sent the music industry into a tailspin, Kansas said, and the film industry isn’t far behind. It’s indicative of how the Internet is forcing entrenched industries to rethink how they do business and distribute their products.
In the journalism world, the changes are dramatic. As one example, many newspaper Web sites are beginning to incorporate video, Kansas noted; communities may soon see their local newspapers in effect become television stations, and vice versa.
Whatever that next step may be, the core goals of good journalism will persist, Kansas said. But good journalism is expensive and questions remain as to how it will be paid for.
Traditional print papers are coping with increased competition and falling ad sales, in part because Web sites can generally better quantify the effectiveness of their ads, Kansas said. As the money moves online, newspapers are following.
Kansas used Madison, Wisconsin’s Capital Times as an example. The Times announced earlier in the year that they would scale back from publishing six days a week to printing two weekly tabloid-sized editions and a robust daily paper online. A strong online presence allows for news organizations to keep apace with the competitive 24-hour news cycle.
Kansas has worked in the online industry for 12 years, and he said the next 12 years could be even more interesting and innovative than the last.
Kansas was visiting Missoula from New York. Monday’s event, titled “On the Bleeding Edge of Internet Media,” was hosted by NewWest.Net and co-sponsored by the University of Montana School of Journalism and First Security Bank.