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27. Jeff Jarvis, Newspapers in Decline? (April, 2009)

27. Jeff Jarvis, Newspapers in Decline? (April, 2009)

Jeff Jarvis is a journalist, creator of Entertainment Weekly and associate publisher of the New York Daily News. As an avid blogger he comes at the newspaper problem from a different angle, arguing whether the “paper” part is really necessary,

“Newspapers are going though dire times, and I think the problem is that they are calling themselves News Papers. By defining themselves by their means of production and distribution they’ve limited themselves horribly. The cost structure that used to make them very powerful, ‘I own press, you don’t’ is now a cost structure which has become an albatross around their necks”

He’s talking about the same problem that has lead to the decline of the music industry, the webs effect on the means of production. It used to be that to make a newspaper you needed access to a printing press. Surprisingly enough, most people don’t have access to printing presses, the result was that few people could print papers and only the largest of those could distribute them effectively. The web has given everyone a printing press, and a rapid means of information distribution. Suddenly, the newspaper’s claim to fame has been co-opted and the only thing they have left to fall back on is the news, which according to several of the people we’ve heard from, has been ignored pretty handily recently.

Jeff thinks the answer is for newspapers to rush, as quickly as they can manage, onto the online and to support themselves through advertising and varying means of public support. Implicitly, he is also saying that the newsroom as we know it will be smaller, more distributed and hopefully more efficient. If advertising is the name of the game, and you can only make a fraction of the money off of web advertising as you can off of print, even if you “turn off the presses” the only way to support this enterprise is if it is small enough to be managed under the new economic restrictions.

It’s a complex question and one I will pose to you.

What do you think newspapers should be willing to “give up” in order to survive?

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