NYT: Privacy is nice, but profit is better

Despite journalists being among those warning of the erosion of privacy in the digital age, it is increasing infringements on privacy that will keep their industry afloat, writes Robert Wright in this New York Times opinion piece.

In fact, the only profitable model for journalism online will be through the continuing removal of privacy and obtaining of information, he suggests.

The further erosion of privacy may be the salvation of journalism – the only way journalists can hope to make a living in the thus-far non-lucrative world of online publishing. As a journalist who harbours such hopes, and has been practising journalism since its glorious tree-based days, I’m in a good position to explain. The willingness of advertisers to spend the money that sustains journalists has always depended on having information about the reader.

…As a member of the late-baby-boom generation, I grew up valuing privacy. But as a journalist with a family to feed, I’m increasingly approving of the very different sensibility of younger people, who seem to have been stripped of self-consciousness by, among other things, Facebook.

The importance of the sharing of data online by communities and the value of targeted advertising as a result was a topic which was also raised at a business-to-business publishing debate at the Association of Online Publishers summit last week.

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