In writing about the Web 2.0 bubble and the current media environment, Jeff Jarvis makes this salient point:
Some of the owners and employees try to blame all this on the public marketplace. But that’s crap. All the marketplace wants is rational business. And private owners can be rogues, too. See the Santa Barbara News Press, where the rich owner is now trying to get $500,000 out of the former editor for daring to stand up on principle. See also rich man Mark Cuban and how he’s trying to redefine journalism. No, those hoping to find knights on shining gold piles are just looking for a means to put off for a little longer — perhaps until their retirement — the inevitable pressure of the market.
Whether public or private, you still have to make sound business decisions that lead to revenue growth and profit. I see no inherent advantage to either public or private ownership. As Jarvis says, it’s still all about responding to the marketplace. I disagree with Jarvis’s favorite untested hypothesis that public newspaper companies appear to be getting everything wrong. There are multiple business models being followed throughout the newspaper industry. Some appear to be clear losers, but some show potential. It’s still too early to say that they’re all wrong.