PaidContent Creator Ali Heeds Warning for the Future of Online News

You hear a lot of people giving advice to folks in the online media industry about what they should do and how they should do it. Often it comes down to embracing the new social media craze or figuring out the best search engine optimization strategy to encourage page views.
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But rarely do you get as candid (and negative) of an outlook on the industry as paidContent’s creator Rafat Ali. Interviewing with Poynter, Ali set a grim scenario for the online news industry, particularly for those thinking of setting out on their own to create a new product.

He starts off with why he no longer wants to work in the industry.

“I don’t want to do news covering news media,” said Ali. “So, media covering media, I think that almost surely is over for me. While the story of transformation of media is a great story, I think there’s just too much talk about it, and to some extent it is just an echo chamber, people talking to each other. There’s more talk about the talk than actual action.”

So basically it’s an inundated market. What then should someone getting into the game do to break through this market? Ali makes it clear it’s all about page views, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Journalists and entrepreneurs should realize that before attempting a new online venture.

It’s a difficult, difficult slog. As I said, the sentence that I use a lot is that “I’ve burned the candle at both ends and the middle for the last eight years.” It’s taken a physical toll, a personal toll, a mental toll on me. I’ve come out on the other end fine.

You have to be cognizant going in — it’s going to take a heavy toll on you whether you like it or not. If you’re in it, you will enjoy the process, but there’s a huge life outside of what you’re doing that you’re completely missing for however many years you’re in this. So you have to be ready for that.

Journalists out there probably expect that. But it’s a scary statement, and this is coming from someone who created a successful online news venture. If anyone should be upbeat about the online game, it should be him. What’s wrong with this picture?