You want advice? Don't ask journalists

Ezra is certainly right that there are loads of outlets that didn’t even exist 10 years ago, doing great work and hiring lots of young reporters. But before you decide to hitch your wagon to that star, there are a few things you should consider.

The problem that should loom largest in your imagination is green, and it folds. The revenue model that funded journalism for more than a century is collapsing. I know what you’re thinking: You’re thinking that old, fuddy-duddy publications like the New York Times are getting disrupted by great new outlets like Vox and Politico, and it’s a good thing, too. And, of course, old-style journalism is facing a lot of competition from new outlets. But that’s not exactly some revolution in public affairs; old publications have always faced competition from new publications, and some of them went out of business as a result. Before Time and Newsweek and the Rocky Mountain News entered the ICU, there were Look and Life and the Saturday Evening Post. They failed; their journalists sought other jobs. This sort of disruption is normal in any industry.

No, the problem is not competition for eyeballs from new outlets that are writing news in a different, fresher way. The problem is competition for ad dollars from companies that don’t produce news at all. Making news is expensive. It’s hard to compete against companies that don’t bother. Journalism’s biggest threat comes from companies like Google and Facebook that cheaply aggregate our expensive content and sell low-cost, demographically targeted ads in huge numbers. They can kill the whole business.