Newspaper Suicide Pact

Posted: June 4th, 2009 under Uncategorized. Tags: , , ,

We’ve reached the “Aw to hell with them, let it all burn” stage

Just a quick late-night hit while I prepare to shoot an interview tomorrow at KCET.

I’ve spent much of the last couple years of my life trying to come up with case studies, strategies, training programs, tools and mash-ups of all the aforementioned, all aimed at illuminating a clear pathway for the newspaper industry to follow to save itself from “The Crisis.”  My last big project was the Audience Planbook for the NAA, which was supposed to lay out a step-by-step process to building new businesses that take advantage of the technological innovations that have changed the way we get news.

I’m not so delusional and narcissistic as to think that I have some revealed, holy wisdom that can turn around the momentum of a massive, multi-billion dollar industry by myself.  But I had hoped that maybe my voice, along with the voices of those who I recruited (shanghaied? hoodwinked?) into writing chapters in the Planbook for me, would spur some kind of change.  This hope has grown harder to sustain in the last couple of months.

And then there’s a straight brass-knuckles shot to the chops like this, on the Xark! blog:

What will these media executives do when that reality hits them?
When these debt-burdened chains, stripped of journalistic talent by a
decade of profiteering, their web traffic reduced by 60 percent by
their paid-content follies, their pockets emptied by the cost of the
proprietary paywall systems offered by Journalism Online LLC and other
opportunistic vendors, what will they do?

Will they buck up and
go back out into the fray with fresh ideas and leadership? Or will they
fold, casting bitter eulogies to their own imagined glories as they
exit the stage?

The chances of them adapting well to another
failure are dubious. Remember, these are the same people who have acted
as if there were no other options, even when those options were
practically gift-wrapped for them. As if Newspaper Next never happened. As if commerce hubs and C3 and all the interesting, exciting ideas that are practically everywhere today do not exist.

They don’t get it. They don’t want to get it. And in many cases, they’re literally paid not to get it.

America’s
journalism infrastructure – from corporate giants to non-profit
foundations like the American Press Institute and the Newspaper
Association of America – is funded by dying companies. So when you hear
about efforts to save newspapers (and, by extension, journalism),
understand that answers that don’t return the possibility of double-digit profits and perpetual top-down control aren’t even considered answers. They’re not even considered.

They’ll do anything to survive… so long as it doesn’t involve change.

Click on over and read the rest of the piece. And then go to the comments section – because the action is always in the comments – and check out the long, impassioned note from someone trapped in a sinking newsroom. mapping-la1

Do not count me – yet – amongst those who hope that, well, now that it’s (allegedly) become clear that newspapers are fated to die, then let’s just get this over with.  I still think that they can turn things around – the recent LA Times excellent Mapping LA project is a great step towards building the kind of hyperlocal database and information exchange network that could take off and fulfill all those dreams about the possibilities of digital local coverage.

While I am all for the development of the new content & biz models touted in Xark!, I don’t think they are ready – yet – to step into the line of fire and take over in collecting and distributing the information that we need to be able to function effectively as a society. Hell, as a civilization.

The anger in the screen on Xark! is palpable, and I will cop to feeling it on more than one occasion.  But I am not yet ready to give in to it. to throw in the towel and just lean back and toast marshmallows over the flames.

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