By Dr. Rudolf Bickel | Sunday, March 15th, 2009 at 9:46 pm
Unconstrained by print and broadcast media, editorial policies, physical distribution, and budgets, internet journalism is replacing the traditional modes of information and idea sharing. And newspapers are failing. Clay Shirky, adjunct professor in New York University’s graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program, discusses the revolution in this article — Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable:
….It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem….
Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism. For a century, the imperatives to strengthen journalism and to strengthen newspapers have been so tightly wound as to be indistinguishable. That’s been a fine accident to have, but when that accident stops, as it is stopping before our eyes, we’re going to need lots of other ways to strengthen journalism instead.
When we shift our attention from ‘save newspapers’ to ‘save society’, the imperative changes from ‘preserve the current institutions’ to ‘do whatever works.’ And what works today isn’t the same as what used to work….
This is a good read, very well done. Shirky talks about the print media from the revolution started by Gutenberg, the new revolution which will kill publishing in general, and points at CD publishing as well. All will die, because the problem they solved with their infrastructure, distribution, simply no longer exists.
The same is true for broadcast or cable TV, actually, if you think about it. Distribution no longer requires any particular centralized infrastructure. You can get virtually any programming you want over the internet without any television channels involved.
Which leaves journalism itself. The internet will increasingly be all that is needed for any of it.
1. Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. delivered the leynote address at the nation’s first-ever conference on News Literacy, held March 11 - 13 at Stoneybrook University in New York.
Journalism – whether published in newspapers or magazines, broadcast on television or on the radio; or consumed online or on a mobile device – is under enormous stress, both from the permanent shifts set off by the Internet and from the cyclical forces unleashed by this current severe economic downturn.
But something even more fundamental is going on around us and it’s at the heart of this conference and our common desire to carry the banner for News Literacy far and wide. Journalism is being transfigured by the new information ecosystem and its very definition is changing. Given the volcanic explosion of Web sites, search engines and social networking channels, how could it not?….
Sulzberger, it should be noted, is chairman of the board of The New York Times Company, and in his speech at Stoneybrook argued for the survival of traditional journalism:
While Wikipedia and online aggregators serve their purpose, serious news gathering operations are more necessary than ever as the public and private decision- makers and the concerned public gathers the news and information needed to more thoughtfully progress into a most uncertain future….
…what do we need to do to earn enough revenue to maintain robust newsrooms and uphold the rights and privileges granted to us by our Constitution?….
At The New York Times Company, we are focusing on three key levers to achieve this breakthrough moment: attracting more users, deepening their engagement and then earning revenue from their usage. To do all this will require making bets on how this new medium will evolve and making investments in that vision….
2. David Carr, columnist for the New York Times, wrote an article on the subject the week before the News Literacy conference was held — United, Newspapers May Stand:
Even casual followers of the newspaper industry could rattle off the doomsday tick-tock: a digitally enabled free fall in ads and audience now has burly guys circling major daily newspapers with plywood and nail guns. The Rocky Mountain News is gone, The San Francisco Chronicle is on the bubble, and dozens of others are limping along on the endangered list….
Most aggregators are not promoting newspaper content; they are repurposing it to their own ends. Newspapers’ audiences are harvested and sold divorced from the content that attracted them in the first place….
Carr argues for the “walled garden” approach to news — no more free content on the Web, tiered Web access, charging aggregators for referrals, regulatory reform. Carr is in fact the poster boy for those journalists that Shirky describes as obsolete and in a state of denial.
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