For one of the book's chapters I've been exploring some of the profound differences between scarcity thinking and abundance thinking. The Long Tail is all about abundance--unbounded shelf space, as it were, leading to profligate inventory expansion: everything, all the time. But there are many other manifestations of abundance all around us. One of them is in my own industry, media, where the end of distribution bottlenecks is changing some of the fundamental rules of journalism.
The traditional premium on impartial journalism is a function of media scarcity: if you are the main or sole source of news you have an obligation to be balanced. That was certainly once true of America's newspapers, which in a big country are distributed by city, almost invariably in ones or twos. And the rest of American media took its journalistic-standards lead from newspapers.
Today in the US the newspaper is fading, as is its influence on American journalism: news and information is becoming a commodity. What will rise as a differentiating competitive advantage? I'd argue that it's not so much pure opinion and political partisanship (although that's been the case on radio) as it is sensibility and worldview.
Perhaps the best example of sensibility is The New Yorker, which has a distinctive voice and perspective that, one assumes, had its origins in the cultural life of the Upper East Side of Manhattan (disclosure: they're our corporate sibling at Conde Nast). You'd never confuse it with a newspaper--it assumes too much of the reader, both in intellegence and attention span, and appeals by making its audience feel like they've joined a somewhat exclusive club of smart, sophisticated people.
But sensibility doesn't have to be posh. Maxim and FHM have a sensibility (embrace your inner dog), as does MTV. Perhaps the best examples are blogs, which at their best have a distinctive and human voice, driven by the interests, values and sensibility of their author.
Worldview, on the other hand, tends to take the form of writing that does not so much seek to be balanced and comprehensive as it does to argue a case or give informed perspective and analysis, often reflecting a consistent philosophy (environmentalism, libertarianism, globalism, and plenty of positions that aren't "isms", too).
Examples include my alma mater The Economist (worldview: free markets), Fox News (American triumphalism), and my own Wired (change is good). What worldview shares with sensibility is that the writer's voice is louder than in traditional journalism, and his/her own observations and reactions are less suppressed.
I see both of these as part of the fall of "dispassionate media" and rise of what, by contrast, one might call "passionate media". I think passionate media is the only kind that will cut through the blur of commodification in the years to come. And I think that we, as readers (and writers!) can handle the lack of quasi-impartial hand-holding just fine.
Dan Gillmor calls all of this "the end of objectivity". I agree.