Friday, December 1, 2006

prophets of doom

In the continuing trend of prognosticating, Jack Shafer on Slate writes about the 'Chronicle of the Newspaper Death Foretold.' In the article he quotes Leo Bogart's 1991 book, Preserving the Press: How Daily Newspapers Mobilized to Keep Their Readers. Bogart, Shafer writes, 'portrays an industry that knew exactly what ailed it but refused to adapt to a shifting marketplace. Change a few dates and a few names in a couple chapters from Preserving the Press, and you could republish the whole thing as 'breaking news.''

The article rehashes much of the ground plowed by many other, to mix and mangle a few metaphors, but does raise something intriguing to think about. Shafer talks about how the net allows for unbundled access to news and information. Unlike processing your film and having 36 prints made when you only wanted four, now customers can print only the photos that they want.

What is interesting is that Shafer mentions the above and then moves into Andy Kessler's idea of EPILIT: Entertainment (or Editorial) and Perishable Information Leading Indirectly to a Transaction. Essentially, Kessler is arguing that newspapers are providing information with a short 'half-life' that many times leads to consumers/readers purchasing something; otherwise, all the advertising dollars are being spent for nothing.

Referring back to yesterday’s comments about Susan Stellin’s 'Bad News for Old News,' Some of her other predictions were that: 'TVs, computers, and other digital devices will truly begin to morph,' which we are already beginning to see. 'Technology will make it easier to find, access, and manage content.' And 'Marketers will make some mistakes as they move into new digital spaces.'

So what does this mean or imply? The increasing speed of the news cycle, the unbundling of news and entertainment, and the impact of technology are all trends that newspapers seem to be ignoring at their own risk. If Shafer is correct, newspapers will continue to ignore things until they further atrophy and die off. Or, some really smart news organizations will recognize what they have access to: banks of information, an organization for collecting and formatting news and entertainment for consumers on various platforms, the experience to create loyal consumers that recognize a brand and move into the post printing-press era.

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