Posted on October 16, 2008
You don’t own this corner anymore
Newspapers will NOT be playing a significant role in the reinvention of news, says Dan at Xark, and he lays out 10 reasons to back up his assertion.
Yesterday a journalist who (still) works at a big Florida newspaper told me, “Last year we were trying to shoot as much video as possible. This year, we’re trying to save the paper.”
That’s not one of Dan’s reasons, but it could be. I mean, if the people who run newspapers had realized that it would come to this — to trying to save the paper — more than a year ago, there might have been something they could do. But I’ve been down that road already.
One of Dan’s more intriguing points:
The culture of newsroom leadership contains a fatal 20th century flaw: A fundamental belief that equates all new trends with dangerous “fads.”
This loops back to the “if they had realized” theme, because there were plenty of people sitting in these newsrooms who DID realize — I will even say they KNEW — that this was coming. Knew long ago, maybe even as far back as 1995. But the people who called the Internet a fad were in the power chairs, and those who could see the future — well, even today, almost none of them are sitting in the power chairs in the newspaper companies.
Those clueless people are still driving the train in a lot of these companies. So Dan’s larger point (that we can’t expect these guys to turn it all around) rings true for me — even though I’m sad about it.
This part of Dan’s post made me laugh:
Give each staff member a pencil and tell everyone to stop what they’re doing and write out the tag that creates a hypertext link. If most can’t, you’re not spending enough on training.
And THAT loops back to the lack of vision in the executive suite. In most of these companies, until about mid-2005, editors said it was not important to know any HTML when you came out of j-school. Because they saw HTML as … HTML. They thought that unless you had to write HTML as part of your daily work, there was no reason to know it, to understand it. They didn’t see HTML as a building block of literacy in online media, in creating networks. They didn’t see learning HTML as acting like a Roman when in Rome.
… most newspaper payrolls are bloated with pluralities of resentful Luddites who struggle with the complexities of e-mail.
That one is so sad, it makes me feel like crying. And it’s pretty much true, even though a lot of them (those who remain) are not as resentful as they once were.
Dan’s No. 8 might be the linchpin:
Newspapers have already lost one of their key selling points: Social currency. In 2008, all meaningful political discourse — the essential element of social currency — takes place on the Web.
If you think he’s exaggerating, then I think you are — sorry to break it to you — one of those people who still hasn’t figured out online. It’s getting a bit late for that now.
So what’s to be done? I think it’s being done by entities that are not newspapers, that are not associated with newspapers.
It’s probably time to stop rehashing all the mistakes the newspaper companies and their managers have made. It’s probably time to just go ahead and move on to something else.