Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Hot Pod: A podcast ranking that misses a lot, new listenership data, and funny Australians
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
March 25, 2009, 7:45 a.m.

Killing innovation with kindness: The Newspaper Revitalization Act

The title of a bill introduced by my U.S. Senator tells me most of what I need to know about how its focus is misguided:

The Newspaper Revitalization Act

Proposed tagline: “Newspapers: Let’s breathe a little life into this patient.”

At its core, the idea isn’t entirely harebrained, especially the notion of making it possible for people to support journalism through donations, but I am immediately suspicious of any effort that has as its starting point that newspapers are precious things to be preserved, forever, like some kind of ubiquitous, everlasting Williamsburg of media.

If the government (the government!) starts getting in the business of propping up the fading part of journalism’s business model, forget the ethical and constitutional issues, it’ll effectively cut off oxygen to the parts of the business that are trying to innovate. In the past 6-12 months, I believe it’s been the panic around the breakdown of the old business model that has allowed more talk of change to rise to the surface in newspaper executive suites. The worst thing that could happen would be for newspaper companies to find the means to suddenly become comfortable again.

Jason Calacanis, serial tech entrepreneur and owner of Mahalo.com, talked about this on This Week in Tech (TWiT) in the most recent episode, when the host asked him what happens when newspapers and other traditional media experience the kinds of business model disruption that are happening right now:

“Most of the time people can’t make the evolutionary shift. It’s just too difficult. You’re better off just shutting some of these things down. And you know what: Don’t cry for the newspapers. It’s an opportunity for young people with new ideas to make better things than newspapers… Don’t cry for the newspaper business. I’m sick of that. Engadget as a blog or This Week in Tech as a show are much better — Lifehacker, etc. — than the tech products that came before them. They’re better than ZDNet. They’re better than CNet. They’re better than PC Magazine. Nobody’s crying because G4TV‘s gone. Who cares? Who gives a crap about TechTV? TWiT is better. People have this thing that progress everywhere else is good, but in the newspaper business, progress is bad. I think not killing trees is a good thing.” (Around 1:19 into the show)

Painful as it is, I think he’s right. If the news industry has any life — or influence — left in it, showing why this ill-advised bill is a bad idea — reporting and editorializing on it — would be a good place to start.

IMO, as they say online.

POSTED     March 25, 2009, 7:45 a.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Hot Pod: A podcast ranking that misses a lot, new listenership data, and funny Australians
Also: Was there a lag in the “Serial effect” on podcast awareness?
BuzzFeed’s Another Round podcast is partnering with a social audio app to let listeners submit their stories
The podcast is working with the app, Rolltape, to make it easier for listeners to submit their own audio.
A Swiss publisher is trying to attract a paying audience with an app sampling stories across publications
Tamedia’s 12-App collects the 12 best stories each day from the company’s 20-plus publications.
What to read next
0Hoping to redefine “trade publication,” Digiday launches Glossy, a vertical to cover disruption in fashion
“I hate the term ‘trade publication,’ because it implies being a boring cheerleader for the industry.”
0Chasing subscriptions over scale, The Athletic wants to turn local sports fandom into a sustainable business — starting in Chicago
“It’s very easy today to be click-driven and produce articles that don’t have a lot of substance or depth and don’t cost that much to produce, but that dynamic is disappointing for fans who want higher-quality content.”
0A year in at Vox, Recode looks at its future: Video, distributed content, more podcasts, and no /
“There’s a huge opportunity to be a widely read, digitally native business site that uses tech as our lens, and I don’t think that’s out there.”
Fuego is our heat-seeking Twitter bot, tracking the links the future-of-journalism crowd is talking about most on Twitter.
Here are a few of the top links Fuego’s currently watching.   Get the full Fuego ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
The Blaze
CNN
Honolulu Civil Beat
Fox News
BBC News
MSNBC
Instapaper
Tampa Bay Times
OpenFile
The Washington Post
Reddit
Craigslist