David Thompson
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January 30, 2008

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georges

Chris Anderson, author of "The Long Tail", is currently writing a book on the economics of "free". The internet is making so many things - music, newspapers, movies - available for free. Anderson thinks we shouldn't be afraid of "free", and is thinking about how it can work. His blog's here:

http://www.thelongtail.com/

Matt M

I still subscribe to the print edition of 'New Humanist', even though nearly all of the articles are available free on-line. It's partly because I prefer reading print to a computer screen, but also because - unlike the Guardian - I want 'New Humanist' to continue publishing.

The problem the Guardian faces is that a) we can get our news elsewhere, and b) there are blogs providing a much higher quality of comment.

David

“…also because - unlike the Guardian - I want ‘New Humanist’ to continue publishing.”

If the Guardian folded I’m sure we’d miss it terribly. No, really. I have wondered what percentage of the Guardian’s readership reads it ironically, or as grist to the mill. For instance, I’d imagine a large chunk of Ms Bunting’s readership is enthralled for less than flattering reasons. “What *is* she going to say next?”

georges

I enjoy reading Sarfraz Manzoor.

I wonder. Is the online newspaper already too important to ignore. Do newspapers who lock out major content from their web editions discover they're being ignored?

KB Player

I tend to buy daily newspapers in exceptional circumstances - on holiday, for instance. When I do buy them - Guardian, Independent, Telegraph - they always seem to be very good value for 80p or whatever the price is. And I read more of the news and less of the comment. It does bother me that there may be less investigative journalism and proper reporting - unless it is paid for by newspapers and their sales (don't know about the revenue raising via the net) there will be that fewer reporters hunting facts. And I think I'm better off reading more facts and information on a subject rather than more of yet another person's take on it.

Sarfraz Mansoor remarked on Newsnight Review that it was better to read Jason Burke's recent articles in the Observer on Islamism (which contained research) than Martin Amis writing fancy prose about all the old stuff.

"The Observer Magazine has spoken to scores of Whitehall officials, intelligence officers whose daily work is the struggle against terrorism, former militants in the UK and abroad, convicted prisoners, police officers, experts and psychiatrists, defence and prosecution lawyers, Islamic religious figures, Muslim community leaders, youth workers and ordinary people. We have analysed hundreds of pages of court documents and secret intelligence reports. We have also compiled and analysed profiles of more than 50 British militants, cross-referencing our results with similar surveys of 300 other such individuals in other countries."

None of us who pontificate on Islamism, including Martin Amis, have the resources to carry out such a task. The internet is homeopathic - one half molecule of fact dissolved in a litre of liquid opinion.

AMac

On the Western side of the pond, Lead and Gold links to two related pieces.
http://leadandgold.blogspot.com/2008/01/what-is-killing-newspapers-great-piece.html

Craig Henry reviewed Russell Baker's half-right reflections on the decline of the newspaper. And at Slate.com, Jack Schaefer looked at screenwriter/ex-reporter David Simon's impassioned but similar lament.

Interestingly, both essays relate to the Baltimore Sun, a paper that know from the subscriber's point of view. All the intractable issues touched on by David in this post are present. To which must be added the publisher's and editors' devotion to cant: reliably leftist, often inane, sometimes ill-informed. Afflicting the news section as well as the opinion pages.

Homer Simpson in the corner office, raging against those ungrateful readers. Er, ex-readers.

wayne fontes

While I find the discussion of the print newspaper business model interesting I wonder what is the effect of newspapers on the environment. I think it's safe to say that global warming has been nearly universally accepted in news rooms around the globe. Broadly speaking the industry cuts down trees, transports the logs to paper mills to convert them to paper in an energy intensive process that creates air and water pollution. The news print must then be transported to a plant for printing before it can be finally distributed. The end product either goes into a landfill or is reprocessed in yet another energy intensive step.

Do any newspapers purchase carbon offsets? Will journalists be willing to give up their jobs to see their dream of a greener earth realized? I'll go out on a limb and predict that press will find that making sacrifices personally is much harder than advocating others make sacrifices.

The_Rick

As a small business owner, I have NO sympathy for the newspaper business.
1) Print advertising is horribly overpriced - especially compared to the price and broad reach of radio and TV ads.
2) They should have seen this coming -- after all, they do research and print THE NEWS
3) At no point in any of the dozens of lamenting articles on the demise of newsprint do you see mention of efforts to reduce costs or lower salaries. If I could predict a similar crisis in my business, I'd start preparing from the inside, researching ways to reduce costs and alternative avenues of income.

It's like the whole .mp3/CD issue. The big record companies fight legal battles to hinder technology, while forward-thinkers like Steve Jobs adapt and use the technology to make more money. Newspapers can still make good money with banner ads and other embedded ads on their website, etc -- Google seems to turn a decent profit, no?

georges

I think we're in a period of transition. Okay, every time is a period of transition. What I mean is, in less than 5 years, it'll be clear how the new economic model is going to work - for newspapers, music, film, even TV. The people who get it right will be very rich. the people who don't will be gone.

The_Rick

georges:
exactly, you're just more concise than I am.

Glen

What is missing from Tim Watkin article is just how disconnected from the "Main Stream People" the news print world has become. As they move ever more into advocacy journalism, people get turned off by the centralized "We know what is best for you" attitude that has been emanating from the news print/TV cabal (particularly up here in Canada) for many years now.

Could it be people are tuning out and not turning the news print page because they are tired of being treated as morons to be preached at and indoctrinated, and it's not so much a failure of the business plan it's self.

I am one of those people that now gets 90% of his news and world information from the net and only goes to the TV and most news print to confirm they are wrong and I am on the right track getting the information I require to make an informed opinion.

The news media in North America has become it's own worst enemy by dumbing down/advocating it's position under the guise of news. If I tune into talk show radio 9 times out of 10 the host will divulge their leanings (other than the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation or Bill Good at CKNW Vancouver) thus allowing me to make a decision if that person will add anything substantive to my position of "getting" informed. Not so the print/TV media these days which has a very condescending opinion of it's viewers/readers.

Frank Pulley

I'm less worried about blogs endangering the dead tree media than vice versa. The MSM invasion of the blogosphere is giving it a bad name. Gresham's Law applies. Where do we go when the cyber-smell they generate gets too strong?

Nancy

"By reading this article online, are you complicit in the slow death of printed newspapers and magazines? …For all of us on CiF, it’s surely a question we should be wrestling with… I’m sure many of you, like me, still buy print. But if you and I are spending more and more time on sites such as this instead of buying other newspapers and magazines where we live, we’ve got our hands on the knife. Haven’t we?"

...WHY do the liberals have to make us feel guilty about everything? I once read a book about the destruction of the rainforests where there was this passage: "If you buy a hardwood-covered stereo, your hand is directly on the chain saw."

...By that logic, if you refuse to buy a can of pop from a corner store that's in danger of going out of business, you might as well be stealing money out of their cash drawer.
This logic makes us all simultaneously guilty of everything in the universe at once, while - ironically - giving us the excuse to blame everybody else for not helping us out of any problem we have. I think that's called collectivism.

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