Stanley Bing (Gil Schwartz) has written an article arguing that newspapers as we know them are not dead. Bing is a humor columnist for Fortune, so he takes his time to get to his point, which he presents as a list in his signature style. While I'd like to agree with Bing, I'm forced to face a more realistic, and sad, truth: print newspapers can't last. Let me address each of his points:
Bing's Reasons Why Newspapers Will Live
|I like newspapers. I look at a few every day and even read some of each;||I like newspapers too, but that doesn't mean that they have a profitable business model (anymore).|
|I don't believe everything I read in the paper, but I'm interested in what they think is interesting;||I'm interested in what journalists, who are experts in their field, have to say too. Yet, I can find the information much quicker, and from a greater variety of sources online. Multiple sources make it much easier for me to believe what I'm reading|
|Newspapers have been around a long time, from medieval days through the time of Horace Greeley and beyond. Radio didn't kill them. TV didn't kill them. The Internet will not kill them;||um... are you seriously arguing that change isn't inevitable? Horses were the primary means of transportation for a few thousand years more than newspapers were a source of news. I don't drive to work in a horse.|
|If there were no newspapers, all we'd have is the Internet, whose capacity for the promulgating and dispensation of bulls**t is unparalleled;||erm... all of the newspapers are online too, so unless the news suddenly becomes bullshit by posting it online, it's the same info you get in print.|
|I am NOT interested in a PERSONAL, daily e-mail informing me only of the stuff I pre-select as of interest to me. What's the pleasure in that?||I agree, having to sort through an email or select out the news that you want to get is limiting and annoying ... that's why newspapers have whole sites online for you to read.|
|If we all had a euro for every article in some medium that declared another medium dead, we'd all be Europeans;||Yea, sure. But trust me, no one writes on clay tablets anymore. Or, a more recent example: who uses a typewriter?|
|Aggregators can only aggregate content if there is content to aggregate. No content, no aggregators;||Sure, we need content. No one's saying that the newspaper industry is going to cease to exist, just that it needs to evolve. Rapidly.|
|Contrary to popular belief, journalism is an actual profession that takes training, talent and skill, and one of the most rigorous and necessary places in which it's pursued is in newspapers;||Totally agreed, journalism is a hard, and noble profession. So let's keep 'em around. Their product is going to look a bit different, but that's cool right?|
|89% of all citizen-journalists are just full of it.||32% of all stats are made up on the spot. Seriously though, no sane person is going to argue that journalism as a profession is coming to an end, just that it can stand to be democratized a little bit. It's impossible for journalists to be everywhere at once. Let's farm out some of the story-finding to the average joe. Half the time he can write perfectly well about the birth of 6 lambs in Podunk, Utah anyway.|
|source: Life and Death in the Media Business | MediaCulture | AlterNet|
Bing also brings up a few points that he doesn't address in this list. He argues that both Rupert Murdoch and Sam Zell have recently bought major newspapers: the Wall Street Journal and the Tribune Co. respectively. These industry titans must be investing in newspapers for a reason.
→ Mr. Bing, I agree, they are investing for a reason. The news business will not die. There is an inherent need for the fourth estate; both for the sake of democracy and human curiosity. These rather smart business men are simply buying low so they can sell high.
Bing writes that his kids love reading newspapers; he hints that there is a need for something physical for a younger person to be able to understand it.
→ If Bing is arguing that his kids won't be able to satisfy their "obamamania" without newspapers, he's wrong. They can always get their news online. Faster. From more sources. More reliably – will they look to a newspaper to see who won on November 8th? More likely they will keep track of the election night online. Or at least on TV.
As to the need for something physical, that is a problem. So far, we have nothing better than print newspapers as a physical medium. Trust me, solutions are being worked on though. I like OLEDs.
Advertising dollars are down across the board, and according to Bing, and all the bad press that newspapers are getting means that advertisers are being scared away.
→ There's bad press for a reason. The media industry can be pretty stupid. Yet, I trust them enough to report that part of the industry is failing only if it actually is failing.
Ads may be down across the board, and that might partially explain the loss of ad revenue for newspapers, but there's no way the overall decrease is responsible for the drastic losses that newspapers are seeing. They've lost their crown jewel of advertising, the classifieds, to the internet. An overall slump in the graph should not equal a valley for the newspaper industry.
I've got a bad habit of not being able to read the vocal inflections that people try to convey with text, so I apologize if I've taken any of what Gill wrote too literally. However, the point is important, the print medium is dying. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that technology is not ready yet with a replacement. In the mean time, newspapers have to find a stop gap solution where they can exist online and still maintain a physical product.