The News Business Is Dead; Long Live The News Business

from the heard-it-all-before dept

The New Yorker is running a longish piece about the state of the newspaper industry. It’s a decent read, though it doesn’t cover any new ground. Newspapers are dying, industry vets are fretting and whining, the internet is rising, but doing so in a different way ? a more opinionated, more community-oriented way. There you go. The entire 6,500 word piece in one sentence. What’s most amazing to me is how the folks who are complaining and whining about it all can’t seem to separate out the fact that “the industry is changing” from the idea that “journalism is dying.” As Matthew Yglesias points out, all it’s really saying is that the future will be different, and the more you look at the details, the more reason to think that it will be better, not worse.

Robert Niles pulls out a keen observation on the topic over at OJR. It’s not that the news business is dying, it’s just that, for the first time in history “newspapers” have some competition. They’ve survived 300 years without any real competition — other than maybe from a small number of other newspapers. This is the first time that they’re facing competition from non-newspapers, that are providing the same essential services they have, but are doing it in a different way. And if there’s one thing that should be clear from nearly all of economic history, it’s that when you get real competition, the end results tend to be much better and much more innovative — which is exactly what we’re seeing in the news industry.

It’s certainly clear that journalism isn’t dying (despite the whines). We’ve seen that the market for good journalists is incredibly competitive, with news organizations needing to pay top dollar to lure the best talent. And once the old school news professionals realize that news means something different these days than it did when they were the only players in town, there are plenty of ways to provide news that people want, and to make a profit doing so. The news business isn’t dying. It’s thriving. It’s just that it’s more competitive. And that’s a good thing.

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Comments on “The News Business Is Dead; Long Live The News Business”

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Jake says:

Re: Re:

I believe he was being sarcastic, Masnick. Though let’s face it, suing your competition into submission on frivolous technicalities seems to require significantly less effort than actually thinking up new and innovative ways of making money in every other industry on the planet; who’s to say some struggling newspaper won’t give it a go?

citj says:

Facing competition for the first time

Newspapers haven’t faced competition? Yes they have. All along. It’s just that at each juncture, they kept focusing on being a newspaper. Now they aren’t.

The telegraph came along (and newspapers didn’t freak out and covert all their operations to dots and dashes)…

The radio came along (and newspapers didn’t add orchestras and soap operas and send all their news over the airwaves)…

Movie Newsreels came along (and newspapers didn’t start publishing in movie houses)…

The television came along (and newspapers didn’t add moving pictures)…

But suddenly the Internet comes along and newspapers “have competition”? No. Newspapers are confused and lost, and think that they need to be something they aren’t rather than be the best at what they are.

Newspapers think their competition are bloggers and citizen journalism sites. They imitate them. The problem is that as soon as newspapers start trying online video – they are deciding to compete with TV news, not blogs.

The solution is to focus on creating a useful newspaper. Unfortunately, most local papers are part of national chains, so they are completely unable to be the kind of community beacon they were even just a few decades ago.

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