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Author Topic: The Demise of Traditional Media  (Read 12688 times)

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Mongrel

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The Demise of Traditional Media
« on: March 14, 2009, 06:35:33 AM »

I've been halfheartedly following this story for a few years now, though there hasn't been much in the way of significant developments. In fact, the most noticeable difference in the last couple of years has been the proliferation of in-print 'free' papers, of mediocre or awful quantity (most of their news content being recycled reprints with little to no staff-initiated investigations).

Anyway, I saw this article, and it's a decent summary for anyone who hasn't been paying all that much attention.

I think that a nostalgic few aside, by and large most actual journalists don't have an issue with going over to online-only distribution models. The problem is that there's still a large gap between the fiscal capabilities and penetration of an online paper vs the existing traditional ones. For the most part, all the most respectable, useful, and comprehensive news websites are all outgrowths of strong print players (WaPo, NYT, etc.). We have yet to see a newspaper that has only ever existed on the web but is providing content with a depth and quality of the larger print operations.

The real fear here is that with each major paper that folds without an online counterpart to take up the slack, a culture of strong journalism is lost, one that in some cases has been carefully built for over a century. The issue is not the technological shift, but the economic one.

I find it an extremely relevant point that most of the content found on the sites of strongest of the new players (i.e. Drudge, HuffPo, Digg and their ilk... skewed views or not) consists of links or linked material that ultimately originates from conventional players. Debateably, the issue of opinion slant is also worth a look. Conventional media have never been completely impartial, but their income was ultimately derived from general circulation numbers. This formed something of a rough check on extremity of views. It didn't always work, but there was something at least. New media have been born in the age of personalized everything: their whole business model is founded on niche-building and target audiences. The practical upshot of this still isn't clear, I think, but I will freely admit to being uncomfortable with the idea of a paper that tells me only what I want to hear. Not so much in the sense that anyone is being deliberately misled, but more the worrying image of someone reading a copy of Computing World and telling themself that they're reading the news.

So I dunno, discuss?
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Bongo Bill

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Re: The Demise of Traditional Media
« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2009, 10:18:47 AM »

Aside from the odd independent journalist (link goes to one I read regularly), it seems only traditional media have the resources to engage in actual reporting of world events. It's very expensive to send people to places in order to write about things that happen there, so the information that is the essential ingredient of journalism possibly can't be sustained by conventional Internet business models.

On the other hand, there is enthusiast journalism, which is sustainable entirely through the Internet since its expenses are lower. There's editorializing, which in many cases people will do for free, and can be built off the backs of journalism that has already been done. Local journalism can probably be done on the cheap as well, though the Internet might not be an appropriate place to distribute local news.

One hopes that the primary value of online journalism as it has developed is as a check against journalistic monoculture. Since the Internet as it is today can provide coverage of events in specialist fields, then being a sort of ad-hoc watchdog group with every possible agenda would probably be the best thing online media can do for traditional media. Keep the competition honest by punishing them for any attempt to abuse their position, and we get better journalists and better journalism.

There's nothing that can be done about people who will choose to get their news from a source whose slant matches their own. Even in the age when punditry was confined to the opinion pages and one's own circle of friends, news articles would be interpreted according to the reader's position, and two kinds of people existed: those who responded by muttering "What an idiot!" to editorials they disagreed with all of the time, or only most of the time. For the former, opinion sites still love to present the opposition's arguments even if only to attempt to refute them, so there's no danger that they won't still be exposed to differing viewpoints; the latter are the sort who'd seek out other positions than their own at least occasionally.

It might be that the traditional model of the acquisition and distribution of news has been doomed by the Internet. If this is the case, I'd say it's far too early to tell the full extent of the new advantages and disadvantages of the system that will emerge to replace it. But it's clear that all the journalistic talent that exists today won't just vanish. As long as there are good reporters, there will be good reporting; and as long as it's on the Internet, there will be a way to find it, consume it, and expand upon it.
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Brentai

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Re: The Demise of Traditional Media
« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2009, 11:31:00 AM »

Newspapers cost a quarter unless you buy a subscription and then they cost like a cent, and make their money mostly off ads and personals.  Online newspapers cost nothing unless you have to buy a subscription and then they cost like a cent, and make their money mostly off ads and personals.  The difference is you can't pick one up to read if you're stuck at a gas station or something, unless of course you've got a notebook or something.

The problem hasn't a god damned thing to do with technology, that's just a convenient thing to blame (see also: music.)  The problem is that the mainstream is succumbing to entropy while remaining so consolidated that it's rare for anything to be able to replace its falling-off pieces.
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Mongrel

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Re: The Demise of Traditional Media
« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2009, 11:39:44 AM »

Aside from the odd independent journalist (link goes to one I read regularly), it seems only traditional media have the resources to engage in actual reporting of world events. It's very expensive to send people to places in order to write about things that happen there, so the information that is the essential ingredient of journalism possibly can't be sustained by conventional Internet business models.

On the other hand, there is enthusiast journalism, which is sustainable entirely through the Internet since its expenses are lower. There's editorializing, which in many cases people will do for free, and can be built off the backs of journalism that has already been done. Local journalism can probably be done on the cheap as well, though the Internet might not be an appropriate place to distribute local news.

One hopes that the primary value of online journalism as it has developed is as a check against journalistic monoculture. Since the Internet as it is today can provide coverage of events in specialist fields, then being a sort of ad-hoc watchdog group with every possible agenda would probably be the best thing online media can do for traditional media. Keep the competition honest by punishing them for any attempt to abuse their position, and we get better journalists and better journalism.

There's nothing that can be done about people who will choose to get their news from a source whose slant matches their own. Even in the age when punditry was confined to the opinion pages and one's own circle of friends, news articles would be interpreted according to the reader's position, and two kinds of people existed: those who responded by muttering "What an idiot!" to editorials they disagreed with all of the time, or only most of the time. For the former, opinion sites still love to present the opposition's arguments even if only to attempt to refute them, so there's no danger that they won't still be exposed to differing viewpoints; the latter are the sort who'd seek out other positions than their own at least occasionally.

It might be that the traditional model of the acquisition and distribution of news has been doomed by the Internet. If this is the case, I'd say it's far too early to tell the full extent of the new advantages and disadvantages of the system that will emerge to replace it. But it's clear that all the journalistic talent that exists today won't just vanish. As long as there are good reporters, there will be good reporting; and as long as it's on the Internet, there will be a way to find it, consume it, and expand upon it.

I think the thing is that good reporters require resources and support. It's far easier for a government, large business, or wealthy citizen to bully a small independent reporter with no resources to pay for lawyers (or in extreme cases, security). It's harder for small independants to gain access to protected or privileged information due to legal, time, and financial costs, and it's harder for a small-timer to put a lot of time and energy into a single story, since he'll need to keep up the day-to-day stuff to earn a living.

Newspapers cost a quarter unless you buy a subscription and then they cost like a cent, and make their money mostly off ads and personals.  Online newspapers cost nothing unless you have to buy a subscription and then they cost like a cent, and make their money mostly off ads and personals.  The difference is you can't pick one up to read if you're stuck at a gas station or something, unless of course you've got a notebook or something.

The problem hasn't a god damned thing to do with technology, that's just a convenient thing to blame (see also: music.)  The problem is that the mainstream is succumbing to entropy while remaining so consolidated that it's rare for anything to be able to replace its falling-off pieces.

I'd agree that entropy and complacency are big issues here that extend well beyond the sad state of one our most longstanding cultural checks on government.
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Zaratustra

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Re: The Demise of Traditional Media
« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2009, 11:46:39 AM »

Aside from the odd independent journalist (link goes to one I read regularly), it seems only traditional media have the resources to profit from actual reporting of world events.

I mean, web or not, it's these people that have the Method to find news and report them down pat - at least news as they're commonly understood. Remember all the complaints that newspapers don't cover science and whatnot? Now web-based publications can fill those holes (see just how popular Slashdot is)

Frankly, what I would like, and could never get from newspapers, is a way to get all pertinent information to a subject when I'm making a decision on it, whether it's choosing a new cellphone or electing a politician. Even newspaper websites are still reluctant to index their information in this way, and Google can only do so much.

Rico

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Re: The Demise of Traditional Media
« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2009, 11:50:09 AM »

Newspapers cost a quarter unless you buy a subscription and then they cost like a cent, and make their money mostly off ads and personals.  Online newspapers cost nothing unless you have to buy a subscription and then they cost like a cent, and make their money mostly off ads and personals.  The difference is you can't pick one up to read if you're stuck at a gas station or something, unless of course you've got a notebook or something.

The problem hasn't a god damned thing to do with technology, that's just a convenient thing to blame (see also: music.)...
Yes, but the amount they're able to charge for advertisements and personals is directly linked to the number of impressions they're likely to get.  Here the newspapers take a double blow, as people who get their news online aren't only not buying subscriptions or singles, they're probably getting them from a news aggregating "blog" and not from the paper's own website.

It is going to be tough to find a way for quality reporting to continue to happen in any mainstream fashion, as one hyper-specialized report from each side doesn't come close to approaching what even today's weakened news reporting did for public awareness.

I don't know, maybe Jon Stewart will kick CNN square in the man-parts often enough that they maybe think about starting to try to maybe be what they pretend they are?
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Brentai

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Re: The Demise of Traditional Media
« Reply #6 on: March 14, 2009, 12:00:39 PM »

Well, he spent the entire last week bitching out CNBC for not reporting the right stuff, so maybe.

The aggregate-and-link model simply suggests that, in order to earn a profit, a news site must actually report on articles that are worth reading.  Tying profit to actual quality isn't a terrible thing for most of us, just those who have coasted too long on being able to turn in crud and making a buck anyway for being the only game in town.
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SCD

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Re: The Demise of Traditional Media
« Reply #7 on: March 14, 2009, 12:10:26 PM »

I need to point out that I still believe strongly in organizations such as the BBC, and the case for public-funded, independent news casts whenever possible.  Ditto for the CBC, although I really couldn't care about the fiction they produce short of the tradition sketch comedies.  These outlets report where traditional private-owned media falls short.  However, their newscasts spend less time on opinion than the trads. 

While these organizations must adapt to the aggreate-and-link model for cost-recovery purposes, they should not become profit-based organizations and should maintain a strong place in society. 

I also have a strong belief that in a couple years, Amazon might just breathe another strong breath to rekindle the ember of the waning tradition press in terms of subscriptions, especially in the competent newspapers which aim for the upper middle class, who find themselves spending transit time pawing through their blackberries.  Kindle-based subscriptions would save a lot of overhead for the newsprint if it catches on.




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Cthulhu-chan

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Re: What the fuck?
« Reply #8 on: May 07, 2009, 11:42:15 PM »

Wait just a moment, what kind of mustard was the President putting on that burger?

OMG DIJONGATE!   :ohshi~:

 ::(: :facepalm:
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Mongrel

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Re: What the fuck?
« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2009, 03:09:00 AM »

If this is the worst you have to worry about, consider yourselves damned lucky.
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Royal☭

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Re: What the fuck?
« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2009, 05:05:49 AM »

Is dijon mustard made from babies or something?

Mongrel

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Re: What the fuck?
« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2009, 05:53:05 AM »

Yes.

French babies. :vampire:
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Büge

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Re: What the fuck?
« Reply #12 on: May 08, 2009, 06:22:02 AM »

Bon appétit, Vendredi.
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Mongrel

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Re: What the fuck?
« Reply #13 on: May 08, 2009, 07:02:37 AM »

Bon appétit, Docteur Vendredi.

:suave:
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Norondor

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Re: What the fuck?
« Reply #14 on: May 08, 2009, 10:19:25 AM »

If this is the worst you have to worry about, consider yourselves damned lucky.

That the american news media is the enemy of the people and we have no legal means remaining to us to force them to do their critical duties? That actually seems pretty serious to me!
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Mongrel

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Re: What the fuck?
« Reply #15 on: May 08, 2009, 10:20:40 AM »

Point.
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Brentai

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Re: What the fuck?
« Reply #16 on: May 08, 2009, 10:26:26 AM »

We could develop new technologies which render them completely irrelevant.

Oh hey look at this internet thing I found.
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Norondor

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Re: What the fuck?
« Reply #17 on: May 08, 2009, 10:38:13 AM »

You can get back to me when Salon.com is relevant.
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Mongrel

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Re: What the fuck?
« Reply #18 on: May 08, 2009, 10:46:29 AM »

Or most of the internet for that matter.

EDIT: In fairness to Noro, the most popular internet news sites are aggregators that piggyback off of the online versions of conventional news sites, taking valuable ad revenue away from those doing the actual work.

I don't mean to be as harsh as that sounds (I'm not crying THEIF THEIF!), but aggregators are in danger of killing their golden geese and if they do so we will all be much poorer for that.
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Doom

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Re: What the fuck?
« Reply #19 on: May 08, 2009, 10:49:46 AM »

So if we take away the valuable corporate money backing of news sites, we will somehow be worse off for losing the news we got from those corporate money backed news groups.
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