Investing in content

Writing for TVNewser, Alex Weprin recently reported that NBC News has named Tom Goldstein, publisher of SCOTUSblog, as an on-air contributor for coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court. The deal extends through the current term, which ends on the first Monday in October. As a matter of practice, most decisions are announced by the end of June or in early July.

At first look, the announcement makes sense for both organizations. SCOTUSblog gives NBC News depth of coverage that the larger organization may find hard to match, while the television network provides exposure for both Goldstein and the web site he maintains.

I wonder, though, if these kinds of deals wind up hastening the demise of the larger organization. In the near term, the quality of NBC's Supreme Court coverage will improve. After CNN and Fox News erred last year in reporting the Court's decisions about the Affordable Care Act, a bit of quality assurance is not a bad thing.

In outsourcing (in effect) its Supreme Court expertise, NBC underscores its role as a distributor of news while limiting whatever roles it may have played in generating new content and insight. The absence of investment in content parallels the actions of many newspapers and magazines in the last ten to 15 years.

As a strategy, cutting content-related costs really doesn't work. For some time, I've argued that the problem faced by media businesses is not one of high content costs but overly narrow use.

Bloomberg is a media company that has invested heavily in content, growing its resources substantially over time. By something that is probably less than coincidence, its law division sponsors SCOTUSblog. Perhaps it takes one to know one.

A bit of disclosure: I've done consulting work for Bloomberg in the past. All of the information presented here is taken from public sources.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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