Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

What The News Industry Can Learn From The Diamond Industry

Posted by Tom Foremski - February 15, 2010

The excellent Atlantic Monthly published this article: Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond?. It's about the origin of the De Beers organization, which sells diamonds.

As I was reading it it struck me that there might be some lessons here for the news industry.

Take a look at this:

Until the late nineteenth century, diamonds were found only in a few riverbeds in India and in the jungles of Brazil, and the entire world production of gem diamonds amounted to a few pounds a year.

In 1870, however, huge diamond mines were discovered near the Orange River, in South Africa, where diamonds were soon being scooped out by the ton. Suddenly, the market was deluged with diamonds.

The British financiers who had organized the South African mines quickly realized that their investment was endangered; diamonds had little intrinsic value--and their price depended almost entirely on their scarcity.

In the online world, there's tons of news, the market is deluged with news. News stories had value when there was scarcity (newspapers were sole sources in local markets).

So what did the diamond producers do?

The major investors in the diamond mines realized that they had no alternative but to merge their interests into a single entity that would be powerful enough to control production and perpetuate the illusion of scarcity of diamonds.

The instrument they created, in 1888, was called De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd., incorporated in South Africa."


What can the news industry do? Merge their interests into a single entity, a type of 'De Beers Consolidated News, Ltd' incorporated in Iceland (to avoid anti-trust).

There is a huge industry that lives off of the professional news industry. Much of that could be swallowed up into 'De Beers Consolidated News,' which could become its own news aggregator, its own Google News, Digg, Stumbleupon, etc.

'De Beers Consolidated News' could provide a single point of licensing for online reprints, reuse, etc. It might even use my idea of 'adtribution' in which reusers of news copy agree to carry the text-ads of the original news site, thereby using the power of the Internet and third parties, to disseminate news and ads.

Only the online content would be aggregated in 'De Beers Consolidated News.'

Take a look at Fair Syndication Consortium. That's getting close to a 'De Beers Consolidated News.'

- News sources that were fast, and accurate, could be rewarded by the best syndication deals.

- More money would be returned to fund high quality news stories.

- It would be a virtuous cycle. Much better than the current cycle of newsroom cutbacks, crap news stories . . . more death spiral than cycle.


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