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The Newspapers Blew It.

2009-04-08 02:12:16.641582+00 by ziffle 12 comments

The Speech Newspapers Need to Hear

"The best thing some of you can do is get out of the way and make room for the next generation "

seekingalpha.com has become one of my favorite sites - they allow unknown authors to contribute and its a mix of ideas. Here they discuss how the newspapers had 20 years to adapt and they didn't and now they are angry[Wiki].

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2009-04-08 11:12:52.166204+00 by: meuon

I've been reading some articles lately in the News Free Press, that I know the reality of... and all I can say is they lost what little credibility they had left.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-04-08 12:16:27.418049+00 by: Dan Lyke

I've been thinking about some of this recently as I've watched comment sections come online on newspapers. Having been around online communities for quite some time (I think it's closer to three decades than two) I like to think I've got some notion of what the general tenor of an installation can do for the quality of discussion.

Have you looked at newspaper site comments? It's worse than YouTube. Which shows us what we already knew: In targeting the people who want to read about more crying widows, and in looking for the easy advertiser targets, newspapers have attracted the most irrelevant readers.

Site comments do have their up-side, though, in our town the local paper has (just) started using discussion forum traffic to decide what to cover. Their coverage isn't great, but at least they're answering the questions that are actually getting raised in the town. Two weeks after they were relevant, but we'll give 'em an "A" for effort.

And, of course, insert my usual rant about papers deliberately obfuscating stories; the number of badly re-written press releases, with introduced typos, that pass for news is extremely disheartening. But that isn't just newspapers, that pervades the news media in general.

At this point it's not even about calling them out on it any more, it's about rebuilding with another structure. It'd be nice if they noticed and helped, but that'll only make it easier, not possible.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-04-08 13:40:14.151982+00 by: Dan Lyke

The New York Times chimes in to a side issue, saying that the AP's real enemies are its customers. Yep. I've stopped linking to AP articles, because they disappear faster. I generally try to find an alternative, even if that's likely some paper with an AP feed that probably rewrote either the same press release or the AP article enough to call it their own.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-04-08 17:31:04.447505+00 by: m

The automakers, the entertainment industry, the so called news media, and others were not particularly empathetic with the industries and individuals that they replaced. Indeed the automakers were most derisive in their lambasting of the buggy whip industry. Now it is their turn.

The media should be most ashamed, as they claim a "profession". But what we hear now is whining, self-justification and excuse making. Personally I have no tolerance for it.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-04-08 19:44:01.554354+00 by: ziffle

I still buy the paper for breakfast - it feels good. But the articles mostly seem old, and of course biased. Local sites like chattanoogan.com are better for local stories, often.

When you think about how the papers gather an article, go out into the woods and cut down a tree and then smooth it out into thin sheets, called 'paper', then use ink to print the words on the paper, then they roll it up into a roll and out a rubber band around it, and using gasolene, and tires, they drive it to your house and throw it onto the driveway and then you go outside and pick it up and unroll it to read it, well its archaic! Makes you laugh at the process if you consider it. :)

But its a part of eating for many people, so I am wondering how long until we have touch screen flat screens a the breakfast table to read the news.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-04-08 22:14:41.893894+00 by: meuon

"touch screen flat screens a the breakfast table" - I've been hacking the Asus Eee Top for various things, it'd be perfect at the "breakfast table".

But I read the news (bloomberg, etc.) in my iPhone mostly.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-04-09 04:14:07.780068+00 by: ebradway

ziffle: seems archaic, but think about the bandwidth of a beat up station wagon filled with Sunday papers. Even just one Sunday paper contains a heck of a lot of information if you break it down to bits. Same person delivers four different local papers, the NYT, WSJ and USA Today. How long has it been since we've been able to transfer that many bits over wires?

#Comment Re: made: 2009-04-09 12:17:45.016434+00 by: Dan Lyke

I think where that analogy breaks down for many of us is in looking at the information. A Sunday paper does have a decent quantity of text, but that much text transferred faster than I can read it has been around for 20 years. And the quantity of text in your average daily, at least the subset that a person reads, has been transferrable for 30.

Most of the dense stuff in the paper is the ads, and I think the big problem there is that the online sites which are failing think that ads need to be obnoxious and annoying and intrusive. The best ads are ones that I want to read, many people do get the paper anticipating some of the advertising inserts, if advertisers and publishers could understand this, rather than reducing the usability of their web sites with ads, they'd do far better.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-04-09 13:36:38.627356+00 by: ziffle

Ok lets look at it the other way: you type in a URL and they then cut down a tree, make paper, use ink to print it, roll it up, drive it to your house, throw it in your driveway, and you go out and unroll it to to see the web site ROFLMAO!

#Comment Re: made: 2009-04-09 14:24:16.59764+00 by: ebradway

Dan: I guess your paper doesn't have photographs or weather maps, just text? I agree that the technology has existed to send one person a newspaper's worth of text (or at least the subset that the one person is interested in) has existed for 30 years. But the technology has only been "commonplace" for about 20 and it's only been about 15 years since transfer speeds have been commonly fast enough to deliver graphic images.

But that's still sending it to one person. That beat up old station wagon broadcasts a big helping of data to many people. And there's some feedback in the system - you can subscribe to different papers than your neighbor.

My mother-in-law works for a paper in St. George, Utah. They actually have people who get multiple Sunday papers for the coupons - and even offer a "coupon only" subscription. But Utah is famous for abnormally large families ;)

#Comment Re: made: 2009-04-09 15:01:20.463562+00 by: Dan Lyke

Yeah, actually, TC and I were recently talking about our bandwidth bet, and I have to admit I'm still largely optimistic for my side of the bet (that point-to-point internet isn't taking over the world because of the N^2 bandwidth problem and the need for people to have common cultural experiences, though Tivo is making us talk about the details), but I mostly ignore the pictures in the paper, to the point where I don't really think of them except as a USA Today sort of feature. And the iconography of weather is somewhat useful in the "at a glance" notion, but the only time in the past few years that I've used a weather map as such (rather than glancing at the 10 day icons of clouds, rain and sun) is when I'm trying to suss out if there's enough room in between squalls to ride for the next hour or two; real-time 50 mile radar is definitely something I can't get from the paper.

But I think the details of the bandwidth aren't as interesting as the details of the papers reacting to a new medium. This morning I was watching Chronicle editor Phil Bronstein on the Colbert Report, and I noticed two things: I wanted to see the in-depth story and musings that Bronstein could bring to the topic, rather than Colbert's snark; and two ads accompanied the SFGate.com side of that story, neither of which were remotely useful to me (They change, but both times I've checked it was the usual "come get your MBA" scam at the top, although from different institutions, and an ad for dog products and one for Applebee's on the side). The ad density per article was amazingly low relative to the paper version, the bandwidth taken for those ads was high, the end result of that bandwidth made it easier for me to filter the ads perceptually (I only use Ad Block Pro to turn off the snap.com crap, just on principle), and I'd even be willing to help them tailor those ads to me which might make that low ad density profitable, but no dice.

I think your St. George, Utah example is perfect. And, for all my whining about Twitter, there are two almost entirely advertising feeds I haven't unsubscribed from there because I'm interested in those products. Perhaps there's a deeper issue here, in that the demise of the physical paper means that when we're free to pick and choose our advertising directly from the advertisers there's little economic value to bundling it with another product.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-04-09 15:12:01.712406+00 by: Dan Lyke

Some good discussion on the newspapers blowing it over at Columbine's journal.