No, it isn’t. Just wanted to get your attention.

News is a mug’s game…always has been. As a product itself, it makes no money and despite the shit salary, good journalism is expensive, dangerous and highly speculative. If you’re a journalist, it’s a physically-demanding pursuit that requires some sociopathic tendencies to succeed at either the coal-face or managerial levels. All traditional outlets face the same problem: a failure to offset the cost-center demands of good journalism with any kind of revenue.

In the olden days, if you had the medium, be it a big-ass printing press or broadcast license, you commoditized it by adding a news service and game shows, because that’s what an audience wanted.

So I’ve been wondering this for a while now: why haven’t the new gatekeepers –Facebook, Google, Amazon etc.–established their own news gathering capabilities? Maybe I’m missing some very important piece of this puzzle so I’m really just thinking aloud. I’m aware the news product is evolving and it will continue to do so. But the principles of supply and demand are more time-honored. Here are some assumptions underlying (but not answering) my question:

They have the platform…

This is pretty straightforward. They saw the opening, they developed the technology and they made it grow. Now they reach such large chunks of the earth’s population that the traditional new outlets have become totally dependent on them for distribution.

…but they don’t have the brand

These guys have perhaps serendipitously found a new role as a news platform but they haven’t been able to create a reputation for news gathering and reliability. Yes, traditional news outlets are flawed and have an awful reputation ethically – but most people would still prefer to have a third-party voice that is dedicated to reporting than have to rely on the sole voices of interested parties, those being governments and big corporations. There are a million and one aggregators out there…none of which would exist if it weren’t for traditional news outlets.

Could Facebook et al. draw on the talent and resources of our dying news institutions (or just buyout AP, Reuters or some struggling newswire) and let the synergy do the rest?

They already sit on a great steaming pile of data

Data is news. Scary, I know. Traditional news outlets can only dream of having the sorts of bird’s-eye-views of what is moving thematically and semantically that the new gatekeepers have. And that doesn’t even take into account the granular and intimate detail to which the new gatekeepers have access. If editors could make decisions about what to report based on a deep analysis on how the masses were behaving (and not just in terms of reader traffic), content would look quite different. Bloomberg already has something resembling this approach, albeit with financial market activity and controversially data on their own clients’ actions. Bloomberg, incidentally, is one of the few major outlets that is still adding headcount.

A mountain of data equals a mountain of ethical questions. I’m not saying a merger between new technology and news reporting is a good or bad thing. But it’s not a question of “do I trust Facebook with my data?” rather, “do I trust the reportage of an outlet with access to such quantities of data?”

It wouldn’t hurt…but they don’t have to

News reporting is not their core business, so why would they?

The new players have a captive market already. While traditional news outlets do have their own internet portals (websites and apps), they are dependent on a native and derivative presence within the new digital ecosystems whether it’s iOS, Twitter, Facebook or being curated by the likes of Google.

But if the old school news gatherers continue to thin out wouldn’t it create some competitive advantage for those with the upper hand digitally to start creating highly-prized news content, not just be a big fat agnostic platform?

On a relative scale, the outlay would not be tremendous. The incentive may not be for a new player to buy an old player, rather for an old player to sell itself to a new player: in other words, it would be up to traditional news to make the case for someone else to buy them.

Tech companies have tried the news game before : MSNBC, Yahoo! The former is resting in peace and the latter has struggled to make much of an impact as that platform’s brand has floundered (though Marissa Mayer’s renewed focus on content could change this.)

News organizations aren’t built overnight but with the old guard in a sunset phase, building from a standing start with the expertise of dying empires may be a bit easier than it once was. It may also be the only way for the traditional craft of journalism to survive.