Revenue prospects are dim for the recent flurry of new journalism start-ups

The nature of successful digital advertising is of a kind that, historically, has not been able to support content creation. Digital media lends itself to what’s called “direct” selling, the kind of closely measured sales efforts most often associated with junk mail. The response might pay for the ad and a little profit, but not much more. Google has made a business out of this kind of advertising because it has turned itself into a world-wide Yellow Pages — and, like the Yellow Pages, it has no cost of content.

The other kind of advertising, brand or display, which is what content-oriented media has long profited from, is a business that has had little success in digital form. Yahoo announced a dismal quarterly performance last week, because its business depends on such display advertising, which is ever dropping.

So why are journalists smiling? In part, because they have no idea what they’re talking about. Why would they? They don’t sell advertising.

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