Our 2014 stage is set, and oh what a marvelous assortment of characters will be walking across it. Many of these characters — the Bezoses, Henrys, Kushners, Omidyars, and Buffetts — are new non-newsies thrusting themselves into the news world, unexpectedly and in short order. The competition they face is unprecedented, as many media — news and entertainment — converge on the same models of digital advertising and revenue from readers, viewers, and listeners. There’s only so much money to go around, and the losers here are likely to outnumber the winners.
Sometimes, a few words can sum up the futility of a competition. As Ukraine sadly fell back into the arms of the Russian bear this week, one commentator correctly noted that the “European Union had brought a baguette to a knife fight.” Now, as we celebrate 20 years since the first newspaper website, we see that the news industry early on armed itself in the digital wars with the First Amendment, the AP Stylebook, and a rate card — tools that have been little match for the power of databases, aggregation and digital scale.