Want To Know Why Newspapers Are Dying? Maureen Dowd Shows Us

from the physician-heal-thyself dept

In her recent New York Times op-ed, Maureen Dowd takes aim at Google, blaming it for the sorry state of the newspaper industry. Perhaps in hopes of winning people over to the newspapers' side in the argument over how much Google should be profiting from their content, Dowd spends a lot of the article attempting to make the reader fear Google, trying to paint the company as anti-privacy and bent on "world domination."
But there is a vaguely ominous Big Brother wall in the lobby of the headquarters here that scrolls real-time Google searches -- porn queries are edited out -- from people around the world. You could probably see your own name if you stayed long enough. In one minute of watching, I saw the Washington association where my sister works, the Delaware beach town where my brother vacations, some Dave Matthews lyrics, calories Panera, females feet, soaps in depth and Douglas Mangum, whoever he is.
The uselessness of this statement is hard to overstate. If you stayed long enough you'd see your name? She saw the names of places where her sister works and her brother vacations? Ever look at a phone book or a map, Maureen? All she was seeing was evidence that people are looking for information.

And that is where Google adds value: it helps to connect people with the information they want. If Dowd would just pause the dramatics long enough, maybe she would recognize that this concept sounds very familiar. Just like newspapers have always done, Google tries to find information that its users want, and deliver it to them in a way that is useful -- and news stories are just one example of what people want Google to find for them. Dowd quotes Rupert Murdoch calling what Google does "stealing." But, Google is no more "stealing" the information to which it links than newspapers steal the events on which they report. It does not take much thinking to see the parallels. But hey, why take time to think when you can engage in some juicy fear-mongering and hyperbole?

Like many others, Dowd also makes the mistake of equating the decline of newspapers with the end of journalism, ignoring the evidence that says this is simply not true. We've already pointed out examples of how journalism can not only survive but thrive apart from physical newspapers. Newspapers were valuable when they were the most convenient, useful way to deliver the news. The content itself was always practically free. But the value of the content was used draw eyeballs to ads -- to give advertisers paid access to the community of readers. With the newspaper format now dying, entrepreneurs will find new ways to leverage the still-existent value of the free content to sell something scarce.

Fear-mongering, making misleading statements, ignoring evidence, not understanding your own business -- it's ironic that, while attempting to blame others for the woes of her own industry, Dowd makes so many of the mistakes that are really contributing to its decline.

Filed Under: blame, journalism, maureen dowd, newspapers
Companies: google


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  1. identicon
    Charles W - T Consaul, 15 Apr 2009 @ 5:47pm

    I guess quality of service has nothing to do with it then?

    Our local paper went smaller, started using thinner paper so the words bleed into each other from one side to the other, raised the prices at places like Walgreens (75 cents) but left it the same at most locations. (50 cents except Sundays)

    I used to love to use it as a proofreading tool for my students. It has more than enough mistakes on any given day, to keep a student busy and fulfilled. Our local paper also tends to get the news a day to three later than the internet, the local news, and even our local PBS stations! I used to read the news for depth and perspective, but we really have to go out of town for that anymore. There are three basic truths. 1. When a paper buys it's competition out, it is usually next. 2. You cannot convince a monopoly it has to try harder. If you want to stay in business, the least effective model is to alienate your customer base and go cheap! Going cheap is like waving the white flag of surrender.

    We can't get the Dallas paper locally, which is a bummer because the coupons were a lot better. Most of the out of town papers that get delivered to our little slice of heaven, don't include the coupons ( a major buying factor for us ) I genuinely enjoy a good paper and took a subscription service for almost fifteen years. When I had to buy Thursday through Sunday papers papers to get an extra Sunday paper, and the delivery person never seemed to get the extra paper in the box (or got the paper in the box but without the coupons) I decided that I could go up to the corner just as easily on the rare occasion that I still wanted one.

    It's all about service, reliability, quality, and respect. But like I said, you cannot convince a monopoly that it has to try harder. Just ask the Useless Postal service!

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