Friday, January 30, 2009

So many articles and treatises written now about the death of newspapers. This is a commentary, partially, about one of them, written by John Battelle, formerly of WIRED magazine ( 

In the thick of this first in a series of "death of newspaper" articles, he mentions how much Google wants to help the newspaper industry. They have money. They could give them money. All of this ignores what seems to be so very obvious. Why is no one seeing it? They state the facts, then they come back with: but what can we do about newspapers?

The facts being that everything about a newspaper that people liked/wanted, they can now find easier on the Web (classified ads, sports results, even breaking news, thanks to Twitter). Print costs much more than any webpage. And on and on.

So the answer seems simple. Close up the newspapers and move on. Was technological change ALWAYS this hard? Or, if you are a major newspaper like the New York Times, take the necessary steps, which they seem to be starting to do, into the online space. Make widgets. Give me a usable iPhone app with your newspaper on it. Make a newspaper viable for those who now live online.

As long as you continue to try to push square pegs into round holes, you'll continue to get nowhere, and technology will march on past you. It already is. People go with what's easy and cheap. Period. Especially in this Depression we are in.

And now you're going to start whining about the loss of "quality journalism" and "ethics" because we're on the Web. Well, I'll clue you. There are plenty of real journalists and ethical people out here in the Wild Wild Web. In fact, I would argue there are MORE people who hold politicians' feet to the fire out here. There are people who care. People who aren't fat and cushy from a cake job, but who've had to reinvent themselves, even daring to do it for no money (as many podcasters, myself included, have done). They do it because they have a passion about it. They do it because it needs to be done. They do it because they have a voice that no one else has.

Isn't that what newspapers used to be about? Where was the newspapers' hue and cry when habeas corpus got taken away from us in the last Administration? Just as one example?

Nobody sobbed into their beers when the grammophone died. Or when Betamax became a useless technology. Newspapers are gone, people. It's time for them either to get their butts onto the Web, where they can still make a difference, or move on.

Nothing is going to make newsprint and its delivery viable again as a business model. Realize it. Google should spend that money they want to throw at newpapers to create a real, viable newspaper on the Web. Cause people will never stop seeking fresh news. They have an insatiable desire to find out what's happening around them, in the world, which has gotten increasingly smaller.

The sad thing for the newspaper industry is that technologies like Facebook and MySpace and Twitter have made us realize that we can connect with people easier and faster and in more real ways than a traditional newspaper can offer us. And the news we find there is no less valid. In fact, it's more real because it hasn't been filtered through the corporation first.

So enough of all this whining. Let's move on. Newspapers are on the Web. Long live newspapers.

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