The newsprint newspaper is DEAD! Let it die! Bury it. Let the bugs and worms eat the decaying pulp and let’s move on with our lives and getting the news quick, fast, and deadly on the internet. As an online author and itinerant publisher, it is delicious to watch the traditional media bandwagon crumble under the weight of their new irrelevancy. They have their worry beads in hand and their self-flagellation in process and they aren’t waiting to sound their own public death knell on your front stoop and in your mailbox:
The newspaper needs to quickly go away or it risks the tainting of more irreverent news delivery memes like the Kindle 2 and the internets. You can currently purchase 31 newspapers and 22 magazines for wireless delivery to your Kindle. The want for information isn’t dead. The traditional pipe that feeds us what we want is rusted and wanting. We still want news — we just don’t want newspapers!
The greatest example of this sea change between paper and pixels can be seen on any public transportation bus or train. Where once people used to fold up their newspapers and read them — filthy-fingered and shoulder-width with elbows poking commuter neighbors on each side — now a single hand, ink-clean and pristine, is held tight against the body and the elbow is angled inward order to keep hold of the $200.00USD cellphone or the $400.00USD iPhone for reading news and playing games.
As the content container shrinks, so too, does the body accessing the information.
If I didn’t know better — and if my irony sensor wasn’t so keenly attuned to sussing out online b.s. — I’d wager the following was written by The Onion instead of being a really “real” business plan that makes one snigger even in the immediate reading:
Here’s the proposition: Print a newspaper of blog posts and then distribute it for free! That’s what Chicago startup The Printed Blog is doing, starting next Tuesday in Chicago and San Francisco. Founder and publisher Joshua Karp tells the NY Times, “We are trying to be the first daily newspaper comprised entirely of blogs and other user-generated content. There were so many techniques that I’ve seen working online that maybe I could apply to the print industry.”
What a total crock! The major media hate blogging and the creation of online user content because we threaten their deathlock on the news. How crazy is that to have virtually published blogs reprinted on the
dead media of newspapers to save newspapers from their outdated
business plan of publishing something nobody wants to read?
The internet has freed information, not repressed it, and we are no longer beholden to the tiny empires of the local newsprint publisher. We can protest against Bush, we can wage war with those that wage war and we can fight our hometown City Hall from 3,000 miles away. News is expanding, not compressing, but paper only stretches so far while the pixel is infinite in its reach and in its capacity for evergreen propagation.
If people wanted to read newspapers, there would be no newspaper crisis! The eyes decide and the eyeballs are all turning virtual because it is better, faster, and cleaner to get your news in seconds than once-a-day.
Here’s another wacky plan to save the local paper: Publish it on a cellphone!
Verve Wireless’s mission is to save the local paper by making it
mobile. It provides publishers with the technology to create mobile Web
sites, so readers can read the paper on their cell phones. Verve or the
newspaper then sell ads on those sites. Verve already powers mobile
versions of 4,000 newspapers from 140 publishers, including The
Associated Press, McClatchy, and the New York Times Regional Media
Okay, so they don’t get it, either. We don’t want to read our local newspaper on our cellphone.
Local news has become the gossip on the street as evidenced in my Midwestern hometown newspaper.
Here’s the “front page” on my hometown newspaper found online this morning. There’s no hard reporting. There’s no investigative journalism. There’s nothing of value except sappy stories about locals trying to build a life in a dying economy:
I don’t understand why my hometown newspaper is even in the “news biz” because they only publish what is told to them. There is no critical analysis of memes and values or any sort of questioning of authority. There is only kowtowing to the police and the local mayoralty and reverence for the football team and that does not a newspaper make.
The “lifestyle news” reporters should all be impaled on wooden skewers and sold at the State Fair as “Cheese on a Stick” because that is precisely the sort of writing they’re trying to pass off as investigative journalism.
It isn’t just the little hometown newspapers bleeding red ink, the Big Boys are also deservedly tasting their just and bitter ends as the Wall Street Journal dies on the publication vine:
NEW YORK, Feb 6 (Reuters) – Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp (NWSA.O) wrote down half the value of Wall Street Journal parent Dow Jones & Co, which it bought for $5.6 billion in 2007, according to a U.S. regulatory filing on Friday.
The company said in a separate statement that it plans to save an additional $40 million at Dow Jones in the fiscal year ending in June 2010. That would be on top of $100 million in costs savings implemented since buying Dow Jones in 2007, News Corp said.
The Chicago Tribune is also up for grabs in job cuts:
CHICAGO (AP) — The publisher of the financially struggling Chicago Tribune Media Group says the company plans to cut jobs, freeze wages and increase prices for home subscribers to help offset a decline in revenue.
In a wonderful, if uncomfortably self-revelatory story, the NYTimes tried to create a “Battle Plan” for saving the local dailies — but the end result was one of rancor and desperation:
In some cities, midsized metropolitan papers may not survive to year’s end. The owners of the Rocky Mountain News and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer have warned that those papers could shut down if they can’t find buyers soon. The Star Tribune of Minneapolis recently filed for bankruptcy. The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News will soon stop home delivery four days of the week to cut operating costs. Gannett, which owns 85 daily newspapers in this country, recently said it would require most of its 31,000 employees to take a week of unpaid leave.
In a prescient Opinion piece for the NYTimes two days ago, editor Michael Kinsley touches upon the truths of the dying newspaper wooly mammoths: Micropayments are not a pulp savior.
Micropayments are systems that make it easy to pay small amounts of money. (Your subway card is an example.) You could pay a nickel to read an article, or a dime for a whole day’s newspaper.
Newspaper readers have never paid for the content (words and photos). What they have paid for is the paper that content is printed on. A week of The Washington Post weighs about eight pounds and costs $1.81 for new subscribers, home-delivered. With newsprint (that’s the paper, not the ink) costing around $750 a metric ton, or 34 cents a pound, Post subscribers are getting almost a dollar’s worth of paper free every week — not to mention the ink, the delivery, etc. The Times is more svelte and more expensive. It might even have a viable business model if it could sell the paper with nothing written on it. A more promising idea is the opposite: give away the content without the paper. In theory, a reader who stops paying for the physical paper but continues to read the content online is doing the publisher a favor.
If the only effect of the Internet on newspapers was a drastic reduction in their distribution costs, publishers could probably keep a bit of that savings, rather than passing all of it and more on to the readers. But the Internet has also increased competition — not just from new media but among newspapers as well. Or rather, it has introduced competition into an industry legendary for its monopoly power.
Kinsley rightly makes the hard point that you were never paying for news in your newspaper; you were paying for the paper the news was printed on.
If the news has always been free, was it ever right to monetize it for profit? Should a buck be made on the delivery of the truth; or do we somehow place a higher value on facts presented by those who are paid to check and double-check sources?
The fight for the righteousness local newspaper was lost over the last eight years as lies were told to us by our national leaders about the war in Iraq, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the financial viability of our future — and the newspaper refused to surgically redact the truth from the lie.
When the newspaper fails to do their Fourth Estate watchdog job, then they only become irrelevant lapdogs to those craving to stay in power and, for a century, we were all left blind in the world of light because the limits of local newsprint kept us all disabled an in line.
Self-publishing changed the dynamic. Blogging erupted the lie.
Even if the local paper decides to live online only for free, it is still dead and costly to us. We’ve matured beyond the strain of the hometown news and we now understand a thousands truths are better than a single lie. The massiveness of the world ether has smothered the local publisher in its tintype boxes and local web servers. We’ve moved on without the local know-nothings and we’re severing all the dying ties that used to bind.
Now, with the freedom of the internet, and with our renewed ability to research the hard truth and compare one idea against another in real time, we have all come to the tough conclusion together that paying for paper with lies printed on it has zero value in the human need to know the truth of what matters — and the only way to really gather that memeingful verity is to collude with the same-minded and the opposite-intended to continually test, all day long, our values, our beliefs and our sacred idols — and the worldly pixel will always puncture neighborhood paper in that quest for self-revelation in the fight for the unvarnished and not-for-profit truth.