‘Most of the newspapers currently in operation will ultimately die, because the internet rewards scale rather than deep local knowledge. They will die whether they stick to their knitting or go all-in on “digital first.”
‘In the past decade or so, the business model has essentially collapsed in the advent of the Internet. Why should anyone pay for something they can get for free?’
-‘Extra, Extra, read all about it…on your mobile device, at least on your mobile device as of a few years ago. (Future readers, this is before the implants).
-(addition) Via a reader: Eugene Volokh argues freedom of the press ain’t about saving the buggy whip industry:
‘I’ve often argued that the freedom of the press was seen near the time of the Framing (and near the time of the ratification of the 14th Amendment, as well as in between and largely since) as protecting the right to use the press as technology — everyone’s right to use the printing press and its modern technological heirs. It was not seen as protecting a right of the press as industry, which would have been a right limited to people who printed or wrote for newspapers, magazines and the like .‘
Some papers reach a level of prestige and influence enough to earn name recognition amongst the general public. As a result, they can muster access to those in and out of power and offer a platform for influence for those interested in influencing. These papers can shape and react to public opinion, and used to be able to fund news-gathering and investigative journalism (solely in the public interest, of course..).
Broadcasting information to the broadest audience possible and maintaining such authority ain’t happening much in print these days.
More videos? Celebrity gossip?
As for ideological and political commitments, that’s a different matter.
If you’re in the information gathering and sharing business, you’d probably better understand how information is now being gathered and shared in order to broadcast it to as many people as possible (if you’re looking to make money and retain authority).
Many outlets still haven’t figured that out in the new landscape:
‘My take is that the rise of objectivity journalism post-World War II was an artifact of the new monopoly/oligopoly structures news organizations had constructed for themselves. Introducing so-called objective news coverage was necessary to ward off antitrust allegations, and ultimately, reporters embraced it. So it stuck.
But the objective approach is only one way to tell stories and get at truth. Many stories don’t have “two sides.” Indeed, presenting an event or an issue with a point of view can have even more impact, and reach an audience otherwise left out of the conversation.’
Are we back in an age of yellow-journalism, pamphleteering, and voices shouting from the rooftops? A period of unique opportunity before new and different monopolies form?
‘Asked about the increased cost, a federal health official tells NextGov that “if the additional services were not added urgently, the exchanges would not function as designed and citizens would continue to have issues using the marketplace.” In other words, the original plan had been for a system that wouldn’t work.’
Remember, the winners are many of Obama’s political and ideological allies and some previously uninsured people, not necessarily everyone else.
‘The internet might end up returning journalism to a faster, more technologically sophisticated version of what it was before the advent of the commercial newspaper business’
Perhaps it ‘s useful to think of journalists as citizens who volunteer at local elections: Private citizens serving a public function.
Someone’s got to open up the church or rec center, set up the machines, tally-up the votes and make it official. Someone may even have to keep an eye on the supporters outside angling for any last vote they can, and make sure election laws are followed. Such volunteers would be doing something both civic and necessary, a little thankless, even. Unlike journalists, they would only be doing it a few days out of the year.
Now, if they were to become professionals, like journalists, they would not be on the public dime, but perhaps words like ‘democracy,’ ‘common purpose’ and ‘public good’ would be heard often as they hit the streets, hounded, rolodexed, and muckraked their way about town. Newspaper ad revenue might be enough to pay their salaries and have say, one covering the courts and police reports, another local politics and press conferences, another obits and subscriptions etc. A columnist might be born.
This actual coverage, often local and community-based, is what is being lamented as lost in the age of internet aggregators and new technology. No one’s hitting the beat.
Amidst such change, many journalists are wondering how noble and necessary their profession is since very few people are willing to pay them for it.
Lemann waxes nostalgic:
‘To work in a traditional city newsroom is to witness every day what is still quite an impressive industrial process. Information flows in from an enormous variety of sources, gets sorted, sifted, processed and translated into a clear, accessible form, moves onto gigantic machines for an instantaneous mass production process, and then gets physically distributed to hundreds of thousands of locations’
Technology won’t replace human experience and judgment, but if an app can do much of the above more easily and cheaply, why not let it?
At the very least, shouldn’t a professional journalistic class be expected to adjust to this new technology and provide value to readers day-in and day-out?
Privately or publicly funded, who among us can possibly hope to speak for all of the public?
Remember The Maine! The good old days…by malik2moon
It’s a pitch for a product of course, but my guess is a similar business model is already being worked on, at least by Murdoch at the Wall Street Journal.
“When the business model change comes it will be sudden and swift because the existing paradigm will collapse everywhere at once and because large newspaper chains will accelerate the turnover. The elements are in place.”
That might be overstating the case a bit…but I wouldn’t be too surprised if we begin to see changes soon.
“The problem is, newspapers were losing business before the recession. Newspapers have been losing business for decades.”
And she finishes with:
“And I just don’t think that in ten years, the newspaper business model will be able to support very many newsrooms of any size.”
And newer business models are being developed and tested as we speak. I suppose it depends on where you’re sitting, but the technology is currently available to broadcast and discuss ideas on the web at next to no cost (not necessarily free). I’m not convinced that the vital role of newspaper as responsible institution of its own….watching even more responsible institutions for the public good (political watchdog, finder of facts) won’t be filled by someone else. Mickey Kaus has a good list here (scroll down) of some necessities.
I’d also argue (showing my political stripes, and perhaps nothing else) that aside from the business model and ad revenue problem, there is the ideology problem at the NY Times (and many other outlets, not all on the left). They are drawing themselves within an ever narrower set of ideas with which to interpret and report on events. I think there are other, deeper reasons for this.
Yet, the NY Times still offers value, and important ideas, and much of the blogosphere relies on the Times’ shrinking newsroom for their own success at the moment.
Gladwell argues that “Free” is a kind of utopian vision, or at least as it appears in Chris Anderson’s new book: “Free: The Future of a Radical Price” What’s being overlooked is the cost of actually gathering news and information, and the infrastructure required to do so:
“This is the kind of error that technological utopians make. They assume that their particular scientific revolution will wipe away all traces of its predecessors—that if you change the fuel you change the whole system.”
Yet, aside from this utopianism, should we go so far as to have the law step in…protecting news-gathering organizations to some degree?
Gladwell finishes with:
“The only iron law here is the one too obvious to write a book about, which is that the digital age has so transformed the ways in which things are made and sold that there are no iron laws”
It’s still up in the air.
See Also: Walter Isaacson’s piece in Time a while back: “How To Save Your Newspaper,” that is, if it isn’t already a shell of it’s former self.
The argument isn’t bad: we’re living off the fat of newspapers’ news-gathering abilities. Such costly news-gathering was maintained by advertising revenue. Online ad-revenue is not able to provide the same news-gathering depth and breadth. So, at some point, all this free-riding may have to be addressed legally to protect some form of news-gathering:
“Expanding copyright law to bar online access to copyrighted materials without the copyright holder’s consent, or to bar linking to or paraphrasing copyrighted materials without the copyright holder’s consent, might be necessary to keep free riding on content financed by online newspapers from so impairing the incentive to create costly news-gathering operations that news services like Reuters and the Associated Press would become the only professional, nongovernmental sources of news and opinion.”
No more free access!
I understand that there is more here in this post than just a conservative (conservare) impulse to maintain the institutions of newspapers for their own sake. The free press is vital to our democracy, and journalism at its best is reaches highs that can maintain that freedom.
Among other things, news organizations have allowed young writers to gain valuable experience and wisdom. They have served as important social institutions, with obligations to the public good. They can uncover corruption, hold the maneuvering of politicians to light of day, and inform the public, providing a bridge to the laws, law-making, and law-breaking…that affects us all.
At their best, they can even highlight injustices of which most men benefit by being aware (and I am a person as averse to the democracy-threatening idealism and over-zealousness that accompanies the pursuit of justice as you’ll find).
Yet despite all these abstract reasons…why do newspapers themselves need to be protected by such a top-down approach?
I’m not convinced.
And as for news-gathering, won’t such needs be filled by other venues?