The End of (Most) Newspapers

March 14, 2009

Clay Shirky has a brilliant essay on newspapers and the internet: go read it now. Here’s a taste:

When someone demands to be told how we can replace newspapers, they are really demanding to be told that we are not living through a revolution. They are demanding to be told that old systems won’t break before new systems are in place. They are demanding to be told that ancient social bargains aren’t in peril, that core institutions will be spared, that new methods of spreading information will improve previous practice rather than upending it. They are demanding to be lied to.

I am hopeful, amid the fear; but that doesn’t mean the fear isn’t justified. The wreckage in the newspaper industry is already devastating, and it’s only going to get worse; my base case is a last-man-standing scenario in which the big boys (NYT, WSJ, Guardian, BBC, Reuters) win, and most smaller publications lose. I just hope that the NYT is big enough to survive the storm; its loss would be irreplaceable.

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