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E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

All 0's and 1's

Willy Week publisher Richard Meeker's annual "Publisher's Notebook" column has some frank talk in it this time around about the state of print journalism:

[D]aily newspapers, which have operated for most of their recent lives as monopolies, seem to be struggling in the emerging digital landscape, in which the competition for eyeballs is ferocious. Here at WW, we feel the Internet offers real opportunity, not the least of which is that it puts us in closer touch with our audiences and allows us to break news constantly....

What am I most looking forward to in 2007?

Six things. Redesigning Willamette Week. Continuing to break important stories. Expanding our presence on the Web. Hosting our newspaper association's annual convention—400 or more newspaper editors and publishers from around North America will be descending on Portland next June. Growing the Longbaugh Film Festival and MFNW. And continuing to work with a group of people who are smart, hard-working, engaged and fun.

The expanding web presence is evident on WW's website, which has started adding news updates on a daily basis. They've been doing this occasionally, but now, it appears, they're making it a regular deal -- something along the lines of LocalNewsDaily.com and the Merc's Blogtown.

It makes you wonder how long we'll have the print edition of any newspaper. What a quaint information delivery system -- they get the content, lay it out on newspaper-sized pages, send it by wire to a large factory where they print it out on paper, then load it onto large trucks, take it to distribution centers, load it onto vans, and take it to boxes that sit on street corners (or deliver it to your house). When you're done reading it, you have to dispose of the paper that it came on, paying someone to take it to a landfill or a recycling center.

Or you can just look at it on your laptop. It's not hard to see where this is all heading.

Comments (21)

But what will we line our bird cages with?

City of Portland municipal bonds.

People have been proclaiming the death of print for years. The most susceptible to this fate would be the daily paper. Weekly and monthly subscriptions seem to be less at risk. It makes me sad that newspapers are likely to be the victim of the digital age. I worked at a daily in college designing the sports page. It was the greatest job I ever had. Fast pace, bright people, and a tangible product at the end of every workday. Over the years print journalists have changed the course of history. Let’s hope that despite the death of the daily that the field will still draw some of the best and brightest to carry the torch..

Newspaper will stick around if for no other reason is that it is too hard to take a laptop into the John.

Here at WW, we feel the Internet offers real opportunity, not the least of which is that it puts us in closer touch with our audiences...

Of course, he also believes that he's above having to actually engage with his audience.

I admit I get most of my news from the web, but I like the tangible presence of papers. There is something more, I dunno, real about sitting down with a cup of coffee and reading a paper than sitting down with coffee and going to nytimes.com. But, we're on the "24 hour news cycle," and why read something that talked about the world as it existed at 3am today when you can find out what's happening right this second.

Dave's post echoes my thoughts.

I rely on the internet for most of my news but there is nothing like the ritual of sitting down in a cozy chair with a cup of tea and the New York Times (especially if it's Tuesday cuz I love me some Science Times).

Also, it's easier to avoid eye contact (with people whom you don't want eye contact with - heh) by hiding behind a paper rather than a laptop. Nothing says "leave me alone" like a nose buried in the paper.

Ditto to what Travis, David J. and Ellie said above. For me it's a habit to have a newspaper in my hands in the morning. I'm not so sure about the MySpace generation though. My kids only look to the newspaper for movie listings once in awhile. As computers grow faster, and display technology becomes cheaper, bigger and better I can see how the print newspaper will become more of a rarity in a decade or so.

Once in a while I have to start working on an east coast time schedule (over the internet). No matter how early I have to start the day, I always leave plenty of time to drink coffee and read the newspaper . Maybe the print media will die out with the baby boomers, but I predict it will hang on at least as long as that generation does.


When the power grid fails because of overload, go look at your laptop.

"Here at WW, we feel the Internet offers real opportunity, not the least of which is that it puts us in closer touch with our audiences and allows us to break news constantly...."

Roughly translated:

"The Mercury's blog is BRILLIANT."

When the power grid fails because of overload, go look at your laptop.

Last time I checked, those newspaper printing presses ran on electricity. Granted, there may be an old paper around to look at by flashlight, but there won't be a new one until well after you've read all about the power grid failure on the internet.

interesting. the one I worked at ran off electricity but could be powered by generators due to a unstable power grid. they also kept 30 days worth of paper in stock (a whole building full) just incase of a papermill strike. I think the could churn out 3 days worth of papers on the fuel supply. Jack, does the smell of that ink bring back any memories. i am smelling my laptop and can't recall a thing.

Actually, my laptop smells like stale coffee. I dumped 4 inches of the stuff into it last week.

I do remember coming home with ink on me when I worked as a newspaper reporter. Coincidentally, my dad delivered the stuff for a local ink-making company, and so there was a lot of the stuff in our wash. I also recall the giant rolls of newsprint. They were always in good supply.

Emergency generators at the printing presses are a good thing. I wonder if our local papers have such safeguards in place.

The daily newspaper is a miracle.

Until there's another 25 or 35 or 50 cent product out there that's delivered to your doorstep before dawn, that can line a bird cage or your worn-out shoes, that can wipe Windex off mirrors, and that can be read -- AND LEFT AT -- the beach without worries, plus has more new words in it each day than the average novel, the newspaper as a genre is in no danger of disappearing. Not to mention the considerable advantage that newspapers have at training and employing people who can gather and distill the news, regardless of the medium of delivery.

Newspapers are still how most of the planet gets its information. Yes, they have many, many flaws. But they're also one of the few institutions in the world that devotes space and time each day to acknowledging its mistakes. They ain't going nowhere.

Hey, I love newspapers, and I don't think they should fold. But I liked telegrams and rotary phones, too.

It is true that modern printing presses are run on labor-saving, energy-intensive machinery. However, the product, aka Built-in Orderly Organized Knowledge (B.O.O.K.), is not an electronic product and is still available to the user to retreive and use the knowledge thus made available. Although this may require a lag-time to allow light in order to read it, it is, none-the-less, readily available, even if all energy support systems are off-line or exceedingly expensive due to spiralling energy costs.

Anything encoded entirely and only in electronic format will not be available in the event of brown-outs, black-outs or energy shortages. Although costs of producing B.O.O.K. systems will also rise with scarcity of energy and materials inputs, it is not expected to be of such levels of increase as those related to energy-consuming electronic systems, nor is the stored knowledge therein expected to be difficult to retrieve afterwards. Such cannot be said for electronic knowledge storage and retrieval systems.

Also, it is still possible to produce new product using the print media process, even in the event of lack of extracted energy to run printing machinery. They did it before there were electric machines.

"Hey, I love newspapers, and I don't think they should fold. But I liked telegrams and rotary phones, too."

But those have been demonstrably improved upon as genres: the telephone and e-mail have replace telegrams, and tone phones have replaced dial phones. I'm not sure the same can be said about newspapers. The blogosphere is still fueled in considerable portion by the work/failings/deeds of print journalists, n'est pas?

What I worry about as more and more information becomes readily available ONLY on computer is the growing gap between haves and have-nots. We know the price of technological products has dropped dramatically, but to those with limited means, a computer (and monthly fee that goes with it) may still be out of reach, especially if they realize that most computers have a limited life.
We seem to assume that everyone can afford cable TV and computers to stay up to date, but that isn't the case. Sure, there is free computer access at the library ... for those with the free time to be there. But what happens to poor, working people when information they need to be informed citizens becomes too expensive to find?

And as if to comment on this thread, this story just fell from the sky:


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