Shirky: "What will replace newspapers?" is a plea to not be living through a revolution

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52 Responses to “Shirky: "What will replace newspapers?" is a plea to not be living through a revolution”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Meh… you are not giving any solution to how to save the newspapers.

    Or: I’m a PROFESSIONAL! I demand my salary to be kept being paid even if nobody buys any newspaper. I’m a PROFESSIONAL I tell you!

  2. noen says:

    @ Nur
    ———–
    #6: jphilby

    “For another thing, they couldn’t be trusted: most of the really important things going on, they failed to cover in any depth, IF at all, IF it was unbiased. As Jon Stewart just so brilliantly pointed out: old media SUCK.”

    I’m not dissing on your quote but would that be Jon Stewart, the TV show presenter? That joke sounds faintly self referential.
    ———–

    Yes, you’re right, the Daily Show IS old media. So why is it perceived to be new media? My guess is that John Stewart is doing something different and I believe that somethings is that he is deconstructing old media as the source of his humor. So… the Daily Show is… maybe post-structuralist deconstructionism whereas old media are traditional ideological propaganda. Hence the conflict.

    @ jacobian
    “The communist mode of production is the most sensible mode for information”

    Žižek discusses intellectual property along with biogenetics as antagonistic to capitalism.

    This is a limit iof market mechanisms. That there is something, as it were, in so called intellectual porperty which makes it communist in it’s very principles. The form of private property resists to it.

    Ecology as a New Opium for the Masses (4-10) at min 2:30

    Back on topic, the question of where will bloggers get their news from once professional news journalism collapses is a good one. Even better is “who will protect citizen bloggers from being sued?” The reason that TV and newspapers do not do investigative reporting is because corporations won several major court cases that limited their ability to report the news. There was a war by the corporations against investigative reporting and they won. Bloggers are even more vulnerable than news bureaus are.

    When the newspapers fall, bloggers will be walking Into The Buzsaw.

  3. Ernunnos says:

    It applies to so much more than newspapers…

  4. Andrea N says:

    Thanks for this. It’s very insightful.

    I was pretty young when the internet started to become ubiquitous. I do remember life before it, but from a very limited perspective. I like to listen people tell stories about it. My dad told me about meeting people from around the world, and how you would put them on your mailing list and send them jokes. I knew that, as a kid, that’s what I thought the internet was for. I didn’t realize that that was what adults thought, too. We were all exploring together, and no one had any more idea than anyone else of what it was, or would become.

    Future history is fascinating right now. So much has changed so quickly. I think our expectations say a lot about us as a culture, and reality says a lot about us as human beings. Many people expected webcams, but not vlogging. A lot of people expected online encyclopedias, but not that they might be written by the general public. And for all the bulletin boards and weird slang and adult sites of the early years, I don’t think anyone expected moot. We thought our institutions were irreplaceable pieces of our identity. It turns out they were just the best expression we could manage with what we had at the time.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Given a credit crunch, and later a resource crunch, I’d say “newspapers,” and after that, nothing.

  6. jefered says:

    Teresa @45:

    “Neither blogs nor the conventional news media have a monopoly on good journalism.”

    Which was exactly my point at the outset. Yes, there have been good journalists on both sides (and for the record, I read more blogs than newspapers). I wouldn’t say there have been great ones for some time, though. There is *far* too much failing in this country and world to say that journalists of all stripes have been on top of their game lately.

    And with all due respect to firedoglake’s coverage of the Scooter Libby trial, Mr. Libby is still (a) a free man and (b) remarkably, the only senior Bush official to be sentenced to jail.

    Great journalism is a catalyst for social justice and change. I would argue that’s why America’s founding fathers included freedom of the press in the First Amendment.

    When power brokers start living in fear of blogs, new media will have succeeded.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Let say if I buy today’s papers and after I finished reading it and gives it to my friend to read then he shares it with his gf does that mean I’m violating the copyright law?

  8. jphilby says:

    I’m a lifelong compulsive reader and an infojunky. But I quit reading newspapers in my 20s. For one thing, they were a wasteful way to deliver what little content THEY chose that I did care about.

    For another thing, they couldn’t be trusted: most of the really important things going on, they failed to cover in any depth, IF at all, IF it was unbiased. As Jon Stewart just so brilliantly pointed out: old media SUCK.

    So there will be a vacuum which nature will abhor. And it will be filled, somehow, because it has to be (if it ever did).

    “Please get out of the new one
    If you can’t lend your hand
    For the times they are a-changin’.”

  9. Takuan says:

    no Jim, killing needs no interpretation. It is always just killing.

  10. Muscato says:

    I was startled recently to stumble on an essay written in 2002 by singer/songwriter Janis Ian on some of these very themes.

    As someone who was an expert on audiences (rather than on, say, intellectual property), and who was finding herself shafted as an independent artist, she turns out to have been something of a visionary.

    http://www.janisian.com/article-internet_debacle.html

  11. Keeper of the Lantern says:

    Eh. Revolutions are nothing new. Neither are the people that believe the world will end if X proliferates. All Shirky is doing is eloquently pointing out a phenomenon that has occurred since humans invented the wheel and mastered fire.

    Again and again new technologies have overthrown the old order and society learned to rebuild itself and move on. And the results have, I’d argue, almost always been positive (except for allowing the proliferation of humans over the earth).

    I guess the one thing that’s new is that the revolutions seem to be coming more often now, and occur quickly enough that a single generation lives through both “before” and “after”.

  12. jefered says:

    Except that I have yet to see new media really knock one out of the park. We can all sit around and bitch about the last eight years and how “old media” did nothing to expose the excesses and illegalities of the Bush administration, but then again, neither did anyone else. Good journalism – the kind that affects real change (the kind that doesn’t happen anymore) – takes a shitload of work that I’ve not seen anyone take on in at least the last 15 years – “professional” journalists *or* bloggers, either.

    We’ve got to stop thinking of “new media” in terms of transmission only – lousy, lazy reporting is lousy, lazy reporting whether it comes on a piece of newsprint or over a fiber-optic cable.

  13. Inkstain says:

    “Except that I have yet to see new media really knock one out of the park.”

    Nate Silver and Fivethirtyeight.com’s exposure of McCain’s ground game as inadequate, disorganized and more or less nonexistent.

  14. StrawberryFrog says:

    #1: see the article: “Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism.”

    I agree that sometimes (ok, often) the news is uncovered by long hard dreary oversight work that just won’t be done by an amateur. But Shirky’s right, this is a big change, and it’s foolish to deny that it’s happening. We would benefit from finding a way to keep the journalism.

  15. jefered says:

    That was brutally obvious to anyone with eyes, ears and functioning synapses, not just Nate Silver and fivethirtyeight.com.

    I wouldn’t by the most liberal definition call that knocking one out of the park.

  16. Inkstain says:

    Then I don’t think you read their stuff. Because I don’t see how anyone who followed that series could fail to be impressed.

  17. thequickbrownfox says:

    “What we need is journalism” exactly.

    BoingBoing seems to understand this except they keep worrying about legacy media as though it were significant.

  18. Nur says:

    #6: jphilby

    “For another thing, they couldn’t be trusted: most of the really important things going on, they failed to cover in any depth, IF at all, IF it was unbiased. As Jon Stewart just so brilliantly pointed out: old media SUCK.”

    I’m not dissing on your quote but would that be Jon Stewart, the TV show presenter? That joke sounds faintly self referential.

    I would genuinely miss newspapers, that’s my personal opinion. I believe in it strongly enough to subscribe to my local one and a national one. I’ve noticed that the papers I pay for (I read the free one on the bus too which is just informative) are all analytical and the whole purpose of them is to cover the news in depth. I’ve checked the market and researched my options currently find myself reasonably happy with the editorial selection of my daily – I think that’s the step you’ve got to work through and find something that’s right for you.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I think the real question is what will happen to the wire services. Reuters, UPI, AFP, AP etc… These guys provide the BULK of news reporting that goes into both blogs and papers.

  20. IamInnocent says:

    They are demanding to be lied to.

    Old habits die hard.

  21. greenlandingtrust says:

    Here are some ideas I posted in an article titled “Dear Mr Editor”:

    1. Admit that the Internet is not going away. Yes say it aloud in the board room. It’s therapeutic and necessary. Gear your business towards it and consider print a specialty section of the company.

    2. Learn that news is your content and stop hiding it behind ads that get in the way. Forget pop-ups, interstitials, and (GASP!) pop-unders. Reading anything online with such things feels like swatting flies at a garbage dump.

    3. Think local, sell global. Do your best to represent your home market. Forget AP, it’s everywhere. What people need is for your to expose the crooks at city hall, not tell them about the calf born with two heads in Bangladesh. People know where to get that news and it’s not from you.

    4. Print only for home deliver and really charge for it. Sell the service and convenience aspect. Some people really want a paper delivered to their house and would be willing to pay a premium to get your great content.

    5. Come up with a Newspaper Printing Stand. Instead of printing a huge soon-to-be-pulped stack of papers for a newspaper stand on every corner come up with a stand that prints a paper on demand and place them in a few strategic corners of the city. It could always have one or two printed and ready to sell so people don’t have to wait. Put them in large office buildings, connect them to the internet and always print THE LATEST NEWS! (this idea was originally posted here.)

  22. arkizzle says:

    GreenLanding

    Re: 5

    Newspapers work because they are printed in such bulk. I imagine print-on-demand is far too costly for something as trivial as a newspaper.. especially considering it’s free (in a different format) on the internet.

    I thought the other suggestions were spot-on though.

  23. wolfiesma says:

    Good journalism should be about more than uncovering corruption. There are other ways to inspire social change beyond investigating how everyone is doing it wrong. What if the newspaper served as a civic primer for posting when and how to get involved in different organizations? Documenting the stories of people making change in their communities… Moving beyond “if it bleeds, it leads,” could be part of the new model, (please?) Just wanted to throw that out there.

  24. Brettspiel says:

    BUDDY66 –

    “Only relatively ad-free mags like The Nation can offer tree-free on-line subscriptions (but just as expensive…which is robbery!)”

    It isn’t the paper and ink that makes the magazine expensive to publish. Web versions of magazine typically have far more content than their printed versions, and that content is expensive to produce. Take a look at a no-ads magazine like Cooks Illustrated. They actually make you pay separately for their print magazines and their website, and the website is actually more expensive than the print. I ditched my print subscription in favor of a web-only subscription, for access to their vast archives.

  25. calabanos says:

    You can’t fold the internet into a pirate hat.

    You can’t crumple the internet into a ball and start a camp fire.

  26. jimkirk says:

    Takuan, unless I’m misunderstanding you, what you’ll get with your real-time streaming war-cam is a heap of data. A good reporter or journalist takes reams of documents or hours of interviews, videos, and such, and refines them down to the essentials so the public in general can have a reasonable understanding of the issue.

    In an ideal case, this will be unbiased. In reality, the public needs to do the work of understanding a reporter’s (or network’s, or publisher’s) viewpoint, so they can filter out that bias and insert their own. :-)

    Don’t mistake data for information, information for knowledge, knowledge for wisdom.

  27. jacobian says:

    The communist mode of production is the most sensible mode for information. If something has almost zero cost in the means of production and exhibits no scarcity then production for use-value is the only reasonable way to produce since the exchange value is rationally either zero or close to it.

  28. mgfarrelly says:

    What’s been fascinating to me is seeing how pig-ignorant “moguls” like Sam Zell are in the face of this situation. Zell has been pushing for more national content, less local focus and generally more homogeneous material across the board. Essentially taking away what could draw in readers, unique content they can’t get anywhere else.

    Less investigative reporting, less focus on finding a story (instead of simply running wire copy or blotter) as a cost cutting measure is a bit like cutting food out of your budget because it’s expensive.

    More and more good journalists are coming together to go out and get good stories and tell them online. Would you subscribe or become a member in the NPR sense to a journalist collective to cover their expenses? A vital press is essential to democracy, I know I’d chip in.

  29. juepucta says:

    @ #8 by jphilby

    I used to think like you and in a lot of ways still do. The one BUT that i see is this:

    Everytime i pick up a paper copy of a periodical (magazine, newspaper, etc) i find an article that i was NOT LOOKING FOR that i find amazing and dig. Some of those i dare say, are worthy of a prize. If i had gone to the website that day looking for news on XYZ and what ABC had done i would’ve missed the abovementioned article.

    The web is even more of a tyranical medium when it comes to catering to consumer demand. If there’s “demand” for an article on this lady that married a white supremacist biker (a series the LA Times did somewhat recently and that comes to mind atm) the story doesn’t get told.

    Eventually we end up with 24/7 Am.Idol, tits, blood, celebrity tabloid BS et al.

    Overall a disservice to the community/country/planet/culture.

    -G.

  30. mdh says:

    arkizzle – I imagine print-on-demand is far too costly for something as trivial as a newspaper.. especially considering it’s free (in a different format) on the internet.

    Strangely, a local small newspaper is just starting up some long dormant presses for printing small runs of several international papers for VERY local distribution. But I think it’s a fluke.

  31. ridl says:

    I agree with Alally @ 30 above that the really worrying aspect is information production rather than dissemination.

    To that end, someone on one of these “newspapers dying” threads a few weeks ago mentioned this interesting experiment: http://spot.us

    Part of what newspapers and other hardcopy periodicals did was function as a funding pool for journalism. I wonder of we as civic society (perhaps in collaboration with the private sector) can find a way (like spot.us) to replace the for-profit model with some form of common fund which could allow journalism, local, national, and international, to survive as a viable profession.

    Every once in a while someone asks whether they can directly contribute to bb. This seems like a great idea to me (especially as a dedicated adblocker, I’d love to throw some cash the boingers’ way when I’ve got it to spare since my clicks aren’t helping), and that points to a larger idea – why shouldn’t there be a funding network for bloggers and other content producers, easily contributed to at every client site, which might even somehow function as an editorial board.

    I realize these are murky ideas, and by no means represent a solution – there’s no way the reporter corps will survive as it is at the mercy of philanthropy – but they might point in a positive direction. I’d work them out better, but I’m meeting a friend for cake in a few minutes. Gotta go.

    Anyway, we’ve got to figure this out – Spider Jerusalem will need his Journalists’ Insurance or he’ll never be able to use the Bowel Disruptor on the President. And that would be tragic.

  32. alally says:

    Whenever this topic comes up, it seems to always be about information dissemination. The real concern should be about information production. Without the resources of professional news gathering organizations, how will the process of investigative journalism take place? How may bloggers can and will actually go out and uncover the activities of big & small government, business, religion, etc? The news has to originate someplace; it doesn’t just appear out of nowhere, to be re-presented & repackaged. That takes money, time, professional expertise, and yes, a non-biased eye for facts. Not “fair & balanced” either; untruth should never have equal time with the truth.

  33. Brettspiel says:

    Interesting article by David Simon on the loss of journalistic muscle at the Baltimore Sun.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/27/AR2009022703591.html

    Ineffectual journalism (pro and am) allows the creeps in charge ever more leeway.

  34. Super Nate says:

    It’s not so much a revolution as a decaying corpse. And the mushrooms growing on it are delicious and give plenty of nifty insights.

    One thing that I look forward to as the quality journalists migrate to the interwebs. Is the a slow change from the current understanding of “freedom of the press.” It’s not a matter of special people that are better than you and me calling themselves “press” and getting freedom that we don’t. It’s about the freedom to express oneself through a technological medium. Like the freedom of speech but for movable type not just voices.

    I know there are some fans on Boing Boing of a great example of journalism happening on the internet. Radley Balko covers lots of shady happenings on his agitator blog and on the Reason Hit and Run group blog. I’ll make a tiny prediction, new media will focus more on the individual journalist than the corporation s/he affiliates with. It’s another step toward information devolution and a much more equal anarchist social structure.

  35. Rasselas says:

    In the future, information will be mediated by individuals with individual likes and dislikes, obsessions, grudges, fainting spells and passing fancies, much as it is now, but we will be able to congratulate one another on shedding the burdens of newsprint and cheap ink, which held us back for so long. Take that, cuneiform of the twentieth century!

  36. jacobian says:

    @30

    We need to change the rest of production towards production for use-value as well. That way there will be no need to produce for exchange value.

    http://red-anti-state.blogspot.com/2009/02/what-is-communism-libertarian-communist.html

  37. Anonymous says:

    Or are they demanding quality local news? There still isn’t a good option for local news for the small and mid size town/region. I know its cool to demand the downfall of newspapers, but frankly there are many aspects of the news that are not replaced with new media as it stands. That may be a good opportunity for some. It may be in fact a net negative for society. Hard to say until after the fact.

  38. DaughterNumberThree says:

    Quoting David Simon’s Washington Post article, as suggested by Brettspiel #17:

    “There is a lot of talk nowadays about what will replace the dinosaur that is the daily newspaper. So-called citizen journalists and bloggers and media pundits have lined up to tell us that newspapers are dying but that the news business will endure, that this moment is less tragic than it is transformational.

    “Well, sorry, but I didn’t trip over any blogger trying to find out McKissick’s identity and performance history [explained in Simon's full story]. Nor were any citizen journalists at the City Council hearing in January when police officials inflated the nature and severity of the threats against officers. And there wasn’t anyone working sources in the police department to counterbalance all of the spin or omission.”

    Beat reporting is the thing that will suffer most unless there’s a way to train and pay people to do it.

  39. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Community Manager says:

    jefered @42:

    That was brutally obvious to anyone with eyes, ears and functioning synapses, not just Nate Silver and fivethirtyeight.com.

    O, attitude! It was extraordinary coverage, just as Inkstain says. I’ve never seen its equal in print.

    If you want another example, there’s Firedoglake’s coverage of the Scooter Libby trial. The measure of the quality of their work is that all the other news media were following Firedoglake’s coverage. They owned that story. No one else was anywhere near as good.

    Kos and TPM have both forced the national press to take notice of important stories. … Do I need to go on? On this side, Thomas Friedman. On the other side, Digby. Which one’s worth reading?

    It goes the other way as well. Who is there in blogdom to match Paul Krugman? Who is there anywhere to match John Walcott, Jonathan Landay, and Warren Strobel, formerly of Knight-Ridder, now of McClatchy, for being the only news organization that wasn’t bamboozled during the run-up to the Iraq war?

    Neither blogs nor the conventional news media have a monopoly on good journalism. What we need to do is figure out a structure that will support good journalists, disseminate their work, and collect money for it.

  40. Anonymous says:

    “Digital advertising would reduce inefficiency, and therefore profits.”

    I think it’s just a typo, but shouldn’t it be efficiency, not inefficiency?

  41. Anonymous says:

    “Arguably, that’s something blogs do very well — city activists, the kinds of people who attend public hearings, etc, blog like crazy.”

    They blog their side and what benefits their side. They’re not legally obligated to post minutes and agendas in the classifieds as the blog of record.

    “One thing that I look forward to as the quality journalists migrate to the interwebs”

    The vast majority won’t, so don’t even dream about it. Most will migrate to paying jobs in public relations, advertising and government. Others will abandon journalism.

    Quality journalists work/ed for newspapers because they provided a stable income. There’s nothing close to that on the Internet – too little money in ads, everybody demands the product to be free, paying per article doesn’t cover the dry spells – so they’ll go elsewhere.

    Survival trumps reporting the news for all but the fewest of the few, and those people won’t cover your town like someone who was paid to do it, even if the employed journalist didn’t do as good a job as you’d’ve liked.

    “I’m a PROFESSIONAL! I demand my salary to be kept being paid even if nobody buys any newspaper. I’m a PROFESSIONAL I tell you!”

    The really boned are the people who work the presses themselves. Those skills don’t translate in any way to the Internet. People with 10, 20, 30 years of experience and mouths to feed, the only employees in the building whose biases never made it into the paper for you snarky bastards to hate.

    Whoopee! Fuck them too, for being collaborators with the enemy.

    “And I believe that reporting will get better and better as the news cloud envelops the world.”

    The amount of data collected will grow. Maybe the number of people analyzing it for trends will grow. But the Internet excels at stripping context from news with its speed, customization and user-friendly partitioning.

    Newspapers aren’t the answer, but neither is a news cloud. Curation will always be important. Shirky will get his revolution, but we’ll be back in the 19th century for a decade or two before human curation catches up on the local level in most of the world – if it ever does at all.

    “In fact, if I were younger I’d set up a site, COPYEDITOR.com, where for a minimal fee I’d piss you off and break your heart as badly as any cigar-chewing alcoholic could.”

    Funny thing is, the vegan smokeless anal-as-fuck copy editors of today are the ones breaking the hearts of cigar/scotch-wielding veteran reporters, right before both of them get laid off.

    Nobody wants to be edited. So long as bloggers have freedom from editing, none will submit to it, regardless of whatever benefits it might bring. The blogs that dare to? Its writers fork off onto a new platform.

    The loss of copy editors – not gatekeepers, but fact checkers and readability experts – is worse than any loss of reporters.

  42. Geof says:

    I’m with JPhilby. I used to subscribe to two newspapers and The Economist (though replaced by the NY Review of Books). I have since let them all go. I came to the conclusion that while the papers increase my knowledge of facts, they decrease my understanding.

    Consider a few examples: the housing bubble, the financial crisis, environmental issues, the copyfight, terrorism, security, transportation and urban development. In all of these areas, online amateurs provide a better grounding. Their wide range of (often wacky) perspectives capture essential analysis that’s simply outside what the papers are willing to report.

    Some (e.g. Andrew Keen) accuse blogs of being rife with reposted press releases. But that describes the papers even better. They call the actual news area the “news hole” because they lay out the ads first, then print as much news as will fit in the hole.

    We do need some form of journalism – after all, that’s what the blogs are usually based on. It’s quite amazing what proportion of blog content is copied and pasted from professional sources. But we can’t go back. The previous system was not only breaking down. I believe it was already verging on being worse than nothing.

  43. Aloisius says:

    As much as I love blogs and what not, I’m not sure where I’m going to get news about what’s going on in my city when newspapers die. I mean, school closings and local scandals are a bit harder to report on without you know… reporters.

  44. Cory Doctorow says:

    Arguably, that’s something blogs do very well — city activists, the kinds of people who attend public hearings, etc, blog like crazy.

    It’s a little harder to see where we’ll get things like warzone coverage or investigations into national/state-scale corruption, etc.

  45. help i cant comfirm my username themelonbread says:

    When the newspapers collapse, I wonder where bloggers will get their source material to analyze/respond to/synthesize. Will unaffiliated journalists really be able to step up to the plate and fill the gap left behind by the heavily-resourced and well-organized paper institutions?

    Will online ads alone provide enough monetary incentive for citizen-journalists to write “hard news” replete with quotes from press conferences and interviews and background research?

    Infotainment currently reigns supreme in TV news. And sites like Digg and Boing Boing are in the end, accountable to nobody. Boing Boing- as much as I enjoy the many personal insights of its writers- is still a personal blog, and when readers complain about anything that is too old or potentially exploitative or not a “wonderful thing”, the writers say “well this is a personal blog, you don’t have to read it if you don’t want to”, which is absolutely right.

    Anyways, infotainment blogs will probably sell a lot more ads than hard news. It’s unrealistic to expect timely, dependable coverage to be provided to us when there’s little monetary incentive for the writer and what gets Dugg the most are breathless, inflammatory, and alarming headlines.

  46. Inkstain says:

    I, for one, work for a newspaper and will never once for a second pretend that it isn’t over and done with for the entire news industry as we know it. We’re just running out the clock.

    But I continue to find it both insulting and amusing that any change must be a “revolution” with such a positive connotation.

    It’s classic self-serving bias (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-serving_bias), assuming that the reason the internet and free information killed professional newsgathering as we know it because of some virtuous and positive quality that the former posesses.

    That is not the case. It was a lucky accident, a confounding factor. The same technology that fathered a new paradigm for news also killed the oligopoly of advertising that newsgathering had a symbiotic relationship with.

    The death of the news industry is correlated with the growth of the media cloud, but not caused by it.

  47. mdh says:

    I really like the perspective of this post. I want to ask how we have managed as a species without the town crier making the rounds?

  48. Anonymous says:

    for information dissemination, this is on point.

    for long term data storage, paper still wins.

  49. Inkstain says:

    “One thing that I look forward to as the quality journalists migrate to the interwebs. Is the a slow change from the current understanding of “freedom of the press.” It’s not a matter of special people that are better than you and me calling themselves “press” and getting freedom that we don’t. It’s about the freedom to express oneself through a technological medium. Like the freedom of speech but for movable type not just voices.”

    Absolutely. The best journalism I’ve seen this year came from Nate Silver and his cohorts’ On the Road series at fivethirtyeight.com. If I had a vote, they’d be winning a Pulitzer.

  50. buddy66 says:

    Advertising. They exist on advertising. That’s why the New Yorker, for instance won’t let me subscribe to it’s on-line editions without also subscribing to the dead tree version; I’d miss all the vodka and Gucci ads, instead of mostly ignoring them, as is my practice.

    Their sales people aren’t stupid, after all, they’re merely venal, as suits their calling; they know our geeks can hack any goddamn thing they throw at us, and make the ads disappear. But they’ve got to convince the clients that readers are viewing the ads; if they don’t, the accounts fold, and so does the magazine. That’s why they dump all that paper in your mailbox, whether you want it or not. Only relatively ad-free mags like The Nation can offer tree-free on-line subscriptions (but just as expensive…which is robbery!)

    Newspapers, in comparison, are completely dependent on advertising. Clearance sales pay for Sunday comics. There soon aren’t going to be any two-paper cities left. And damned few one-paper towns. Either Obama wires the entire country and everybody goes on-line, or news will be entirely via network and cable TV.

    I’m perfectly content to read off of a screen instead of a piece of paper; in fact, I prefer it. (At my age, with my failing eyesight, if I can’t enlarge the print, I’m fucked.) I don’t miss newsPAPERS. at all. I get the news just fine. And I believe that reporting will get better and better as the news cloud envelops the world. In fact, if I were younger I’d set up a site, COPYEDITOR.com, where for a minimal fee I’d piss you off and break your heart as badly as any cigar-chewing alcoholic could.

    But newspapers are great for cleaning windows. I’ll miss that.

  51. Takuan says:

    I want a wearable video camera that constantly streams real-time, uploading to the web. It should be cheap, tiny and robust. Then I’ll get you your war/corruption coverage.

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