Politics & Media
Mar 16, 2009, 07:37AM

About those darn newspapers

They say it all coming. Didn't mean they could do anyhthing about it.

Hugely long (and with a spam-filled comment thread), but interesting nonetheless:

Imagine, in 1996, asking some net-savvy soul to expound on the potential of craigslist, then a year old and not yet incorporated. The answer you’d almost certainly have gotten would be extrapolation: “Mailing lists can be powerful tools”, “Social effects are intertwining with digital networks”, blah blah blah. What no one would have told you, could have told you, was what actually happened: craiglist became a critical piece of infrastructure. Not the idea of craigslist, or the business model, or even the software driving it. Craigslist itself spread to cover hundreds of cities and has become a part of public consciousness about what is now possible. Experiments are only revealed in retrospect to be turning points.

In craigslist’s gradual shift from ‘interesting if minor’ to ‘essential and transformative’, there is one possible answer to the question “If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?” The answer is: Nothing will work, but everything might. Now is the time for experiments, lots and lots of experiments, each of which will seem as minor at launch as craigslist did, as Wikipedia did, as octavo volumes did.

Journalism has always been subsidized. Sometimes it’s been Wal-Mart and the kid with the bike. Sometimes it’s been Richard Mellon Scaife. Increasingly, it’s you and me, donating our time. The list of models that are obviously working today, like Consumer Reports and NPR, like ProPublica and WikiLeaks, can’t be expanded to cover any general case, but then nothing is going to cover the general case.

  • Yes, this was really long, but very worthwhile. He almost lost me at the start, with Dave Barry bit (I can't stand him), but the admission that he has no idea what journalism will be like in the coming years was honest, and much better than the head-scratching done every day by veteran journalists, many of whom will be retired by the time everything comes into focus. My own view is that the media world, sooner rather than later, will be utterly transformed by people whose names are now unfamiliar to the public at large.

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