It's the hidden challenge facing mainstream media: technological innovation. At a big forum today about the future of media and blogs, Martin Nisenholtz, who heads up digital operations for The New York Times, stressed that mainstream pubs have great trouble landing the skilled technicians they need to compete.
Yahoo and Google, by contrast, are storming into media, and they have legions of brilliant engineers and developers to build the next generation of media services. Sitting across the table from Nisenholtz was Bill Gannon, editorial director for Yahoo! He raved about the speed with which Yahoo can turn an idea into an editorial project. It was not a reassuring moment for the ink-and-paper crowd.
What's this mean? Look for mainstream outfits outfits to buy-up online products (and then hire consultants to integrate them). This is what The Times did with About.com (later hiring Jeff Jarvis as a consultant).
I'm still mystified as to why The Times can't hire tech whizzes. I asked Nisenholtz before lunch, and he said that the brightest tech minds like to work on interesting problems--and that they're not drawn to old-line media companies. But surely somewhere, from Palo Alto to Bangalore, there must be gifted techies who could be turned on the idea of remaking the greatest news franchises for the 21st century. Is that so boring?