Wishing for A Big Slice of Pie In the Sky

Wash. Post Editor Says He Can’t See a Time When There Won’t Be a Print Edition

Will there always be print newspapers? The editor of The Washington Post said he thought so, though others might think he’s in denial.

He’s in denial.

In November 2007, former “NBC Nightly News” anchor Tom Brokaw predicted the print edition of The Washington Post would “probably” be dead in 10 years. But Downie disagreed.

“I can’t see that,” Downie said. “Obviously I’m of an age where I can’t see so far out into the future, but I can’t see that. If you talk about technology, there’s a unique technology to a print newspaper. It’s very low-tech, but it is very handy in lots of different ways – from being able to rip it out to being able to take different sections.

Similar silliness is used to pretend that the coming demise of paper books won’t happen, either. “Ohmygawd, of course paper books will never go away! Just try reading your damned ebook in your bathtub!”

I could, if I wanted to. Oh, yeah. I just downloaded half a dozen of Peter F. Hamilton’s books, and I’m reading Pandora’s Star right now. Quite enjoyable, so far. I don’t see hardly any of the socialist doom and gloom pap that seems to permeate the work of so many currently fashionable SF writers. There is one socialist character, but at this point, he’s more or less portrayed as a marginal nutcase, although he’s important to the plot.

Posted in Technology permalink

About Bill Quick

I am a small-l libertarian. My primary concern is to increase individual liberty as much as possible in the face of statist efforts to restrict it from both the right and the left. If I had to sum up my beliefs as concisely as possible, I would say, "Stay out of my wallet and my bedroom," "your liberty stops at my nose," and "don't tread on me." I will believe that things are taking a turn for the better in America when married gays are able to, and do, maintain large arsenals of automatic weapons, and tax collectors are, and do, not.


Wishing for A Big Slice of Pie In the Sky — 3 Comments

  1. This reminds me of a recent podcast at halfpixel.com. The web cartoonists there were discussing the demise of print cartooning jobs with some old newpaper guys. The newspaper guys just refuse to except that print is dead and internet is the future. (Ted Rall was one of the newspaper guys so you can imagine the quality of their arguments)

    One of their arguments was that, just as radio and movies had survived after TV was supposed to replace them, newspapers would survive the internet. That’s just wishful thinking. Radio is a perfectly efficient way to deliver sound and movies provide a viewing experience that can’t be duplicated in the home (though that may no longer be true). Newspapers, on the other hand, are a terribly inefficient way to deliver information.

    The massive capital investment necessary to drop a disposable bundle of print at your door everyday kept competition low and encouraged content bundling. As long as you had an army of delivery boys dropping off papers, they might as well have a comic page, and sports pages, and editorials, and movie listings, and so on.

    Clearly, whether in 5 years or 50, we will have internet connected epaper in whatever form factor we want (assuming we don’t just download straight to our glasses/eyes/brain). But even if people pull out a big floppy newspaper sized piece of epaper every morning at breakfast, it still won’t be a newspaper.

    Newspapers are not the physical thing, they are the organizations that formed to create and aggregate content. These organizations formed solely as a result of the physical technology used to distribute information. Now that we have the internet, there’s simply no need for them. Without the economy of scale involved in physical distribution, there’s no reason to duct tape together a cartoonist, sports writer, political columnist, and movie reviewer. People can pick and choose the exact bits of content they want. If the NYT survives at all, it will be as a web based operation that picks a niche and sticks to it.

    This is one area were authors have an advantage. Even with e-novels you still need someone to write the thing.

    I guess that’s a long winded way of saying that newspapers are just content bundlers and middlemen, which the internet is making obsolete.

  2. Nice take, Kev. Thanks.

    I think the heart of the problem is this: the newsies mistake the paper – and everything it takes to create the paper and physically move it from point a to point b – for the news.

    A lot of folks who never actually read McLuhan think that “the medium is the message” means exactly that. It doesn’t.

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