Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The news that the Chicago Tribune is declaring Chapter 11 because of its excessive debt and shrinking revenues makes me believe that we will be witnessing the collapse of print news media over the next fifty years.
The bellwether company signals the general direction the entire industry faces. Despite the fact that most papers remain profitable, there has been a general decline in advertising revenues and a greater decline in readership as more consumers rely on the Internet for their news delivery.
The financial problems like poor investments and carrying excessive debt for most print media conglomerates is only the tip of the iceberg. There is a more basic problem facing the print media. It has more to do with the fact that newspapers have always been primarily a one way news delivery system without major input from readers or the public. There is a very limited "talk back" factor for print, but it is unlimited in the electronic news delivery paradigm. This is the paradigm shift that the Internet makes possible.
This may sound strange, but because of the impending financial collapse of some of these print giants we have an opportunity to restore the "agora" concept of news delivery. The news that's fit to be transmitted will be what comes up in our browsers. (See Newser, see newsworldmap.com, see igoogle, etc.)
Yet some companies like the New York Times have positioned themselves well enough in electronic media to make the transition into this brave new world as long as they make a clean break with the print paradigm and start thinking of becoming Internet broadcasters. That's why the Tribune collapse may be the signal to the industry that it is time to make serious move to the Internet. That means to rethink the way news is developed and delivered, and start to consider how they will make that happen using a broadcast medium like the Internet.
Think of all the trees we're going to save.