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Kathy Shaidle

The other trouble with newspapers

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Posted on July 23 2010 12:00 pm
Kathy Shaidle blogs at FiveFeetOfFury, now entering its 11th year online. Her latest book is Acoustic Ladylandkathy shaidle, which Mark Steyn calls "a must-read."
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“The world still has too many reporters” (*)

Newspapers are in the paper redistribution business, not the information business. And that, says Seth Godin, is their problem:

Defenders of the status quo at newspapers, book publishers and the magazine industry are in a panic. Some are even misguidedly asking for government regulation or a bailout.

All three industries are doomed (if doomed means that they will be unrecognizable in ten–probably three–years). And yet…

And yet there’s no shortage of writing, or things to read. No shortage of news, either. And there doesn’t appear to be one on the horizon. In fact, there’s more news, more images and more writing available to more people more often than ever before in history.

No, just about all of the whining is about protecting paper, the stuff the ideas are printed on, not the ideas themselves.

It’s paper that makes the economics of the newspaper industry work (or not work). It’s paper that creates cost and slows things down and generates scarcity. And scarcity is what they sell.

Newspapers, says Godin, are obsessed with their delivery system, not their content.

(Imagine if McDonald’s thought of itself as being in the styrofoam container business, or UPS thought it was in the “buying lots of big trucks and painting them the same shade of brown” business. Although don’t laugh — similar counterintuitive schemes can work for a long time, as long as there’s no alternative: sure, movie theaters show movies, but they make their their real profits from that 10,000% marked up popcorn…)

Anyway, Godin doesn’t address what’s obvious to NewsReal readers, however: the average newspaper’s ideological blindness and group think.

So add liberal bias to his equation. And remember that most Americans (that is, the newspapers’ intended customers) identify themselves as “conservative,” and have done so for decades.

Now you’re left with the uninspiring spectacle of a tiny gang of rich, powerful people — supposedly society’s “best and brightest” — clinging desperately to a hundred year old business model that’s dependent upon the destruction of the same trees they’re always telling the rest of us to “save.”

As I keep telling you: the New York Times will close its doors within the next five to ten years.

(Photo and caption credit: SDA.)

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