Brad DeLong picks up some postings arguing that Google destroy’d the garden wall revenue model that the New York Times was using for Times Select and that others (e.g. the Financial Times and the Wall St. Journal) aren’t long for this world.
My first nit to pick here is that it wasn’t Google, but the tsunami of disintermediated content that blew up that business model. If you looking for the institution to blame it was the internet and it’s end-to-end design principles. Google had nothing to do with it. Well maybe it had a tiny bit to do with it; but it pains me how people are unable to distinguish the value of Google from the value of the content it is now the intermediary for. This is like confusing the card catalog for the library, or Sony for the Shastakovich.
Brad then goes on to say something much more interesting to me.
I suspect we are headed for a winner-take-all situation here as well: journalists who acquire reputations as experts will do very well as they become draws for advertisers. Institutions–not so much. Anybody who trusted the New Republic under Michael Kinsley and then encountered the New Republic under Andrew Sullivan, Michael Kelly, and Peter Beinart learned a very painful lesson about focusing on institutions rather than people.
That is indeed the pattern. Winner take all maybe a bit exaggerated, but the pattern is clear; and this is the yet again the question of what the highly skew’d distribution of economic entities will look like going forward. As we skew more severely we end up with fewer intermediaries and everybody else cast into the role of a solitary player. Institutions fail, certainly, but it is ironic that in a single paragraph Brad can suggest that we should expect a single institution, Google, to win it all and then advise us not to focus on institutions; just on the solitary players.