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15 responses to ““The Evaporation Of The American Newspaper””

  1. grrgle says:

    I agree that the precipitous fall of the dailies is pretty amazing, but it wasn’t exactly a steep or slippery slope down to the edge of the precipice. It’s more amazing that it is happening all at once, and that the dailies have been able to hold out for so long.

    I remember an article, linked years ago from FB, about the fall of the Times-Herald at the hands of Belo, and iirc it contained the germ of the fall of Belo at its own hand, through plain old short-sightedness. Easy for me to sit on the sidelines and judge, but the big-city dailies had a great chance to embrace the internet, to take their leadership position seriously, and to get out in front of the Google and the Craigslist and everybody. If they hadn’t been so busy abusing their constituencies they might have accomplished some pretty amazing things. Instead we got annual ins-and-outs listicles that marveled at these crazy kids with their internets as if the whole phenomenon were about as consequential as fuzzy dice.

    The article below is pretty interesting on that score, especially for identifying the technology that brought down the dailies — PINE, the University of Washington’s Program for Internet News and Email. The reason Craigslist looks like a college professor’s homepage is that it was developed using a tool for college professors. That is like taking out IBM’s mainframe business with a souped-up consumer desktop OS, or like kicking Microsoft out of the server room using an OS designed for students and hobbyists. I guess IBM and MS have survived because they didn’t have centuries of tradition to rely on as justification for incompetent management.

  2. yeah, right says:

    I think guys like this are part of the problem. An arrogance. An assumption that journalists care more than bloggers. Perhaps in the old days this might have been true, but I think too many journalists are looking for their next job. And who can blame them when they’re not paid nearly what they deserve for their work and must pay more attention to the whims of the advertising dollar than ever before.

  3. Daniel says:

    Bloggers aren’t credible, but they’re entertaining, they’re guaranteed to reinforce the reader’s own bias in a manner that seems to confer an elevated status on said reader, and they cover stories a full day before they appear in print.

    The question, I suppose, is how credible are journalists in practice. I think they are — more so than bloggers, that much is certain — but there’s really not the assumption of good faith there once was (probably naively). If people don’t trust any given source anyway, they at least want to be snarkily amused for free into the bargain.

  4. Tom says:

    Major changes are needed, and this “evaporation” may be what’s needed to bring them on.
    If newspapers and the corporations that own them want to return to making money, the practice of posting content to Web sites free of charge will need to go away.
    Credible journalism will continue to have value. And I think a public that wants to be informed will be willing to pay for it in electronic form.
    But, as yeah right hinted, will there be enough left to produce that product after the printed paper dies?

  5. In this boiling pot together says:

    Yes, it’s a pity. And let’s not forget: Newspapers aren’t alone. Here’s another for your amusement that will hit closer to home:

  6. Dave Thomas says:

    I’ll spell it out for the powers-that-be at the DMN who (hopefully) pay attention to this blog. I have been a subscriber for close to 20 years now, but I am about to cancel my subscription because I read most of what I need online. If I had to subscribe to the print edition to get access to the online edition I would keep my subscription forever. Giving away your content online for free is INSANE. I’m glad to take it, but you shouldn’t do it.

  7. Daniel says:

    But there’s a pervasive sense that the media is biased toward the Other Side. Charging for content won’t change that. It’s a crisis of credibility as much as it is a [need to develop/ failure to respond cannily to] a new business model.

  8. publicnewssense says:

    The local paper was crumbling because of bad decisions way before the current crisis took over the rest of the big papers. You’ve got to separate it from the herd on this thing. Aggressively inept management— cuecat, The Turn, fighting the TXCN war, dumping The Food Channel,etc. – is not the same thing as the collapse of the industry.

  9. yeah, right says:

    I think Bob Woodward personifies what has happened to the profession. He used to represent the best of Watchdog journalism–working hard to report the truth to benefit the public. Now he’s working hard for his next book deal. He should be ashamed of Maestro. He was fanning the flames of the perception that Greenspan was a God when in fact he was asleep at the wheel as a regulator. They bonded in a shared misperception about their own importance and impenetrability.

  10. Brown Bess says:

    “Daniel @ December 29th, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    Bloggers aren’t credible, but they’re entertaining, they’re guaranteed to reinforce the reader’s own bias in a manner that seems to confer an elevated status on said reader, and they cover stories a full day before they appear in print.”

    Daniel, I don’t think you get around the intertubes very much.

    A site like TPM is as credible as any print news source, a reason it’s read by so many journalists. It broke the story about the political mass firing of US Attorneys General months before the traditional media, not days.

    One of the most overlooked reasons for the decline of not just newspapers, but traditonal Big Media in general since 2000 has been its reluctance to commit journalism during the Bush Years. When the country needed an independent press most, they were mostly AWOL.

    I’ll gladly trade a few curse words for the ability to cut through all the BS and tell me what’s really going on.

  11. tom says:

    Here’s a hint: If you give your product away for free, you are implying it has no value. Value – get it, Mr. Decherd???? No, you don’t you moron……………..Try this, if you give your product away for free and then try to charge for it, it is going to be exceedingly difficult to do so. Why???? Because you have already signaled your product has no value. Oh, crap…………

  12. harvey lacey says:

    It really has nothing to do with the quality of the product or the hubris of the producers of the product.

    It’s all about progress. Nothing more, nothing less. What used to take skill along with serious work now happens with little skill and even less work.

    Newspapers and magazines deliver information. Advertising is there only because people are willing to wade through it to get to the information.

    The internet delivers information. They deliver the same information usually written by the same people who write for the newspapers and magazines. It’s more current and more importantly, it’s free.

    The only way newspapers and magazines are going to survive the internet is to either become the internet or find something to deliver besides information. That’s because they can’t deliver information for free and that’s the going rate.

    I can relate to main street media’s pain. It was almost exactly forty years ago that I walked into my first telephone company cable vault. It was a show place. Every cable coming in was lead sheathed. It was waxed and then polished. Every bend was perfect. All the cables were parallel to something, mostly each other. Plumb and level meant something. It was inferred that if I worked hard and was lucky someday I would be able to work in a cable vault. But to do so it was understood up front that I would have to be the best of the best to get to do so.

    I got into telecommunications right at the cusp when technology was making a serious move. Prior to that it has been basically the same forever. So the trades had perfected what they did and how to regulate who got to do it. It took six years to go from new hire to journeyman as far as pay went. It could take twice that to become accepted as a journeyman by your peers.

    It was not unlike what it took to start in the mailroom and work your way to a desk in the newsroom.

    Today a kid with three months experience can produce more connections in a day than ten crews working around the clock back then could produce in a year. They’re also faster, clearer, more reliable, and oh so much cheaper than those connections made back then.

    Christmas morning I was talking to an engineer that works in telephony. He told me that they’ve now got the fiber repeaters out to nine hundred miles. That means your data is only cleaned up once between here and Los Angeles. Thirty years ago data lines were cleaned up every six thousand feet or so. Plus those date lines carried about a millionth of what a data line can now.

    I left telcommunications twenty years ago. Lucky me.

    I don’t believe anyone in the media can stop progress. But I do believe a smart person in the media would look at what the internet does best and see if their skills and talents have a place online.

    Otherwise, well, there’s art. Anyone can be an artist. All they have to do is claim the title and have a significant other with a real job.

  13. Tinman says:

    How much longer is the FTW Star Telegram going to be around? McClatchy, who owns the FWST, is on its’ last legs. The stock is worth 1% what is was worth 5 years ago. It used to sell in the range of $70 per share, and now it is about 70 cents a share.

    Why even buy a paper when the info is up to 36 hours old by the time it gets to my doorstep? I can get info almost instantly, and for FREE from the internet.

    I used to sell display advertising for McClatchy before being laid off due to poor sales. Face it, newspapers are a relic of another century.

  14. buck says:

    Some of these posts are focused on how readers get information.

    But these are advertising mediums. The Web is proving to be a complicated advertising buy — and not very effective.

    A lot of businesses would rather just print a page and deliver it to readers’ homes.

    I think you’ll see newspapers cut subscription prices and scale back in size, but the days of saying “The Web is King” are over.