On Wednesday, I’ll be joining the throngs heading for the 2010 International consumer electronics show in Las Vegas. But this time I will be doing something completely new. In addition to moderating panels for CES and the Technology Policy Summit @ CES, I will be writing for NVIDIA’s nTersect blog and, yes, I will be getting paid for it.
After leaving BusinessWeek on Dec. 1, I had to make a decision about CES. When I committed myself to run two panels, I had assumed I would be doing so in my capacity as a columnist. I decided I wanted to keep those commitments, even though I would be attending effectively without portfolio–and paying the cost out of my own pocket.
When Robert Sherbin of NVIDIA contacted me about doing the blog, I had very mixed feelings. On the one hand, it sounded attractive. On the other, this sort of direct sponsorship went against all the instincts of more than 35 years in journalism.
But the world of journalism that I have known for all those years is dying fast. We are going to have to find new models to survive, and, unless a miracle occurs and we can find a way to get readers to pay directly for content, those models are going to have to include sponsorship arrangements of one sort or another. In truth, journalism has always involved sponsorship. In the old world of advertiser-supported conventional media, an elaborate infrastructure separated the sponsors–advertisers–from the sponsored–journalists. The arrangement was never as pure as we liked to believe, but for the most part it worked.
The new digital world is forcing us writers into a much more intimate relationship with sponsors. It’s easy to see an enormous potential for pitfalls, but I also think it can be made to work. I regard two conditions of my arrangement with NVIDIA as critical. One is that the relationship be fully disclosed. The other is that I have editorial freedom, subject only to NVIDIA’s request that I write on topics of interest to the company and its customers (so there will be no nTersect posts on giant car speaker systems or iPhone cases.)
I don’t think this will be the last experiment I try as we grope our way toward new ways of doing business. But I am interested in hearing what you think.