Monday, May 04, 2009

Is it News or is it Paper?

Lively post this morning on Tech Crunch about the coming debut of paper sized e-readers, including a new Kindle, and whether these devices will save newspapers. Internet journalists have their long knives out more than ever for print journalists. It has become axiomatic in online media that the ink-stained wretch is a dinosaur and should slowly slink back to their caves to be done in once and for all by the irresistible force of evolution and the withering gale of creative destruction.

Ok, so lets take it from the top. News as printed on paper, updated no later then 2:00 AM, distributed in the morning, with no updates until the next day, and no reader comments until at least the next day can not compete with news as published to a web site, which can be updated in real time, distributed world-wide immediately with insightful commentary from readers available for addition mere moments after publication. Thus the argument continues, replacing paper with a portable screen, no matter what size can not save the newspaper. Whither then the news?

Instant news of course has been around for 80 years. Radio and TV did not kill the newspaper. The internet may indeed kill the newspaper but like radio and TV before it, it will not kill the value of reading information vs. viewing or hearing information. The gathering, editing and distribution of written information is still a viable economic good and public good. The vast scope of the web saturates us with information. It becomes commoditized and cheapened. We access it all at our fingertips and become our own editors, filtering the data and making editorial judgments as to the importance of one story over another. The editor who used to feed us the story is looking for work. Is this what we really want? Of course not. We still rely on journalists and editors to gather and filter the information for us. Who has time to do it all themselves? As the market for printed paper slides down to the long tail, the same forces that made the great newspaper and magazine brands prevail, will make winners out of many online news sources. The brands of The NY Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Time and Newsweek can continue to have value and even prevail without a paper publication, and eventually they will be able to get readers to pay for their online distribution. It may take the deaths of many competitors before it happens, but good journalism will find a price and then can still be sold - even on the internet.

1 comment:

Lauren said...

A very insightful, and realistically optimistic diagnosis of the current state of the news. Spot on!

I'd love to read more about how you think newspapers can successfully transition to the new economy.

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