Posting in Technology
More than three decades ago, when only about 3,000 people in the Bay Area had PCs, newspapers were already contemplating their online futures.
The future of newspapers seems precarious, given the rise of digital media. However, back in 1981, when only about 3,000 people in the Bay Area had PCs, newspapers were already contemplating their online futures. Eleven newspapers, in fact, pooled their efforts to pilot an online venue. Media watcher Jim Romenesko surfaced this report from KRON on the earliest effort to put newspapers online.
Of course, in 1981, the interface was all text. But still, the promise of online news was enticing. An enthusiast in the video pointed to the fact that articles from online newspapers could be copied and printed out. "Engineers now predict the day will come when we get all our newspapers and magazines by computer," according to the report. A commentator added, however, that it took two hours to download the complete newspaper text by [phone-based acoustic coupler modem], so with a $5-an-hour access fee, the cost of the paper was a lot more than a 20-cent (at the time) copy of a newspaper.
Of course, the online newspapers predicted in that report are already yesterday's news. What no one in 1981 could have foreseen is the rise of converged media -- in which both newspapers and television re-invent themselves into something remarkably similar in a new channel. Consider this: if you go to a newspaper site such as USA Today and Wall Street Journal, you can watch videos of breaking news, interviews, or special interest stories. Is USA Today or Wall Street Journal now a broadcast network?
The Internet has converged these two media to the point where you can't distinguish between the two. Newspapers provide video reports, and television stations provide articles to read. If there's a future for newspapers, converged media is it. And the distinctions between newspapers and broadcast networks are no longer so clear.
Feb 23, 2012
Two comments: reading the news electronically is not a new concept. As a child, I read science fiction novels that had people getting their news from terminals rather than printed versions. Those novels did not predict the type of electronic news we have today (combined video and print) but the basic concept is the same. Second, I want to echo the comment made earlier regarding the decline of quality and accuracy in the news. As a former newspaper reporter, I was trained to confirm facts from a variety of sources prior to including them in my stories. Today, I see articles written based on unconfirmed data or from single sources. The idea of accuracy and a complete, balanced story seems to be lost in the rush to get the story out before the competition. I would rather wait for something that is correct and accurate than have to read multiple corrections along the way.
Our paper here in Jefferson City MO offers the e-paper for only$1.20 less per 3 month subscription yet I loose the coupons - hence I'm loosing not gaining anything. Sure reading the paper on my IPad or a laptop is great but I find the lack of the whole story on line rather annoying. There's tons of quantity on line but the finding well written stories that really covers a topic in depth is harder to find. A tech geek at heart, when it comes to covering news, I think we're made two steps backwards this time.
The thing I notice in the digital media of recent years is the lack of quality/accuracy in the information disseminated - even on CNN and the major news services. It seems no one checks their facts anymore, but just seem to repeat sources without any verification. Of course today politics or marketing drives a lot of reporting. If the error rates that I read in the couple of fields that I have professional in depth knowledge of are evenly spread across all the digital "news," you might as well just read fiction and know that it's all made up, not just a part of it.
Newspapers are dying. The future does not seem merely precarious. This "article" is a shallow historical comparison without much insight. The Obama admin bailout of the auto industry is a case in point. It saved an industry on which depended many individuals and small businesses, but the the workers had long ago been excised, through automation and outsourcing to other countries. Detroit is less than half itself in population (and other measures of vitality) simply because people no longer have jobs in the predominant US industry (which, I should remind you, was bailed out by its government through temporary ownership). No one will bail out the newspapers. And few people have offered even sketchy outlines of what newspapers will look like 3, 5, 10 or 20 years out. Reporting, newspapering, whatever - this what our freedom, and freedom of speech, was based on. The wonderful opportunity of communication through an electronic network has reached a touchpoint. Will we communicate more effectively, or give up our opportunity to the convenience of distant, simultaneous, and always available chat?
It is great to get reasonably up to date information from the internet, but the downside is that it has also disrupted several industries. It is ironic that newspapers were predicting e-news but they totally failed to make the switch and keep the quality and the low price of newspapers. The other disruption in printed media is that many bookstores have gone out of business because it is easier to buy things through "clicks" instead of "bricks".
Churnalism has also taken off. Stories are edited and reposted with a minor note that the article was originally seen on XYZ. Often times when you compare the original to the reposted article there are glaring omissions and frequently additions that change the tone and often information and focus of the article. A recent story on a study about collages pushing women graduates into particular fields suddenly became an article about a study claiming women are being discriminated against by certain industries. The tone went from an honest assessment of schools showing a bias toward women to a battle cry against big businesses discriminating against women. Which is not what the study results found.
I worked in newspaper advertising from the mid-eighties to early nineties. What has finished print newspapers as a viable business is that their advertising no longer provides the penetration for ad buyers that other media do. The general rule of thumb used to be that a print newspaper had to be about fifty-five to sixty percent advertising to be profitable; that's six out of every ten pages are ads. Beginning in the seventies, with the advent of direct mail and many, more, smaller radio and television stations, ad buyers began to divert their ad dollars increasingly to these other media because they more cost-effectively reached the intended eyeballs. This was the beginnig of the end of the print newspaper business. It had nothing to do with the editorial content and everything to do with decreasing advertising content. During the last ten years, because of Google, e-bay and craigslist, the classified advertising departments in newspapers stopped performing as well. This is critical, because every page of classified advertising is pure revenue for print newspapers. Now that, classified has collapsed, print newspapers are everywhere doomed.
That makes sense with what I have seen from the past to what is going on now. I like the internet and I can find things that I can not find locally. The downside is the effect on local papers and stores.