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An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education on Tuesday, June 10, 2008 referred to a two-day Executive Leadership Forum that brought together more than 250 college and university presidents and other top administrators in Washington, D.C.  At the gathering, Bill Keller -- the executive editor of The New York Times -- argued that newspapers are likely to remain strong despite blogs and other forms of media that are vying for their currently dominant position.

Keller argued that, despite "a period of unprecedented upheaval, the news business is likely to emerge richer and more responsive to its readers."

He acknowledged, however, that the newspaper of the future will not be delivered in "that lovable old-fashioned bundle of ink and cellulose."

As the reporter noted:

With print circulation slipping and classified ads being diverted to free or cheap alternatives like Craigslist, many newspapers are struggling to stay in business. The same can be said of some colleges with traditional campuses, which have lost enrollment to universities that emphasize online courses.

"At least you have endowments. Why didn't we think of that?" Mr. Keller quipped.  "Substitute 'newspaper' for 'college,' and I've been on that panel..."

When editors get together, "people ask each other 'How are you?' in a tone you would use for a friend who had just emerged from a messy divorce or rehab," Mr. Keller said.

"Technology has lowered the barriers to entry in the news business," Mr. Keller said. "This is unsettling to the traditional news business, but it is also an opportunity."

While Keller acknowledged that newspapers are downsizing and closing DC and foreign bureaus during periods of increasing globalization, he predicted that newspapers would fare rather well in the Internet Age:

Established newspapers can succeed by offering something the newcomers can't, he added: "Google News and Wikipedia don't have bureaus in Baghdad or anywhere else." Rather than creating content, the new Web-based news outlets aggregate it from various sources, including newspapers.

Bloggers, likewise, occasionally enlighten readers with original material, but "most of the blog world doesn't attempt to report. It recycles news," he said.

Both blogs and automated aggregators like Google News depend on newspapers, which, unlike many online sources, offer rigorous standards, a code of ethics, and editorial supervision to enforce those standards, he said.

Keller said that newspapers are successfully adapting to the disruptive online technologies, for example, by merging print and web staffs, integrating audio and video with print, and supplementing in-depth articles with political blogs and reader forums.  In such a world, he views the newspapers of the future replacing the newspapers of today but also a lot of the new blogs and online forums that have emerged in recent years.  

Although Keller did not specifically mention electronic paper, e-paper is one of the many innovations to paper-based products that may breathe new life into newspapers if the media companies are smart about adopting these technologies as its capabilities improve and cost drops.      Keller hopes that:

...newspapers will succeed in attracting enough advertisers willing to pay premium prices to reach the growing audiences for multimedia news presentations. "I'm confident there is light at the end of the tunnel," he said, "and maybe the tunnel won't be that long."

Thus, Keller's comments suggest that newspapers want to continue down a digital path, which means that they are unlikely to see how hardware innovations like the Amazon Kindle could rekindle (no pun intended) their dying print business.  

In such a situation, newspapers could die a physical death but remain viable businesses online.  Like TiVo, which depends on the cable operators for the success of its digital television business, or like Apple, Microsoft and Google, who depend on the mobile carriers for the success of their mobile operating systems, newspapers may end up going down a path that makes them dependent on the hardware manufacturers of digital devices.  This is by no means inevitable, and it depends on the road that the newspaper industry chooses to follow.

Each path -- the physical or online one -- is fraught with risks and opportunities for the mainstream media.  But if I were the CEO of one of these newspaper empires, I would not be so quick to dismiss the print business and allow companies like Apple and Amazon to take over these markets with digital devices that provide electronic text, audio and video such as books and newspaper articles.  Instead, I might follow Robert Frost's advice, and travel the road less traveled:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the 'one less traveled' by,
And that has made all the difference.

Originally posted to YoSoyBoricua on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 10:01 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I think it is more likely (13+ / 0-)

    the other way around -

    The blogs will kill the newspapers....

    "Proud to proclaim: I am a Bleeding Heart Liberal"

    by sara seattle on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 10:03:57 PM PDT

  •  I'll still take (0+ / 0-)

    the New York Times over almost anything.

  •  Newspapers are dying (4+ / 0-)

    There are a handful of newspapers that have valuable brands, the New York Times being one. There will always be a New York Times. However, 90% of the newpapers will go through a death spiral. Some will survive as platforms for political parties or special interest groups. Others will change their economic model to a bare bones staff and free circulation, but most will just die. The internet has takes both the readers and the high margin advertisers.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 10:16:07 PM PDT

  •  Ooo I busted a gut (10+ / 0-)

    at this:

    newspapers, which, unlike many online sources, offer rigorous standards, a code of ethics, and editorial supervision to enforce those standards

    We know what those rigorous standards and codes of ethics are, we've seen them hard at work over the past 30 years.  

    A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves. ~Edward R. Murrow

    by ActivistGuy on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 10:31:25 PM PDT

  •  Keller is right about editorial standards, (0+ / 0-)

    it's just that the WashPo and NYT have been derelict in their exercise of them.  That blogging does not have editorial pushback and a Matt Drudge can spew forth any screed he wants without a lick of substantiation, that is a problem.  

    Blogs cannot be the center of the news universe, but how consumers search for content has changed forever.  Newspapers have to adjust or die.  Really, Krugman summarized it well in his Friday column in the NYT.  In most media or for that matter intellectual property in general, content is too easy to copy or acquire through backdoor means.

    A content provider basically can no longer actually sell the content itself.  Economics 101 arbitrageur/perfect competition models basically drive the market price of content to zero in the long run.  So newspapers have to find another hook to justify the subscription/cover price.

    •  Business model needs shaking up. (0+ / 0-)

      Newspapers take a traditional business model and try to cater their content to demographic and advertising concerns.

      Blogs can catch on because someone posts something relevant to themselves and others and gets a following, be it in politics or other subject matter. That's a very different approach.

      Children in the U.S... detained [against] intl. & domestic standards." --Amnesty Internati

      by doinaheckuvanutjob on Wed Jun 11, 2008 at 02:34:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Free Content (0+ / 0-)

        Blogs work because the overwhelming majority of the content is provided for free. With little distribution costs and no compensation to content providers the internet model is difficult for newspapers to compete with.

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Wed Jun 11, 2008 at 08:51:32 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I was daily buyer of the NYT (2+ / 0-)

    until Judith Miller et al began lying us into war.  I miss the crossword.

  •  If they don't return back to actually reporting (2+ / 0-)

    the events of the day without the gross corporate bias it has exhibited for a quarter of a century, the newspaper model is done, over.


    The consumer economy that drives most of corporate media is about to morph into something else, something different. I don't think "blogs" are going to replace newspapers, but something is happening. I just cannot put my finger on exactly what that is.

    "If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." We need to go far, quickly.

    by shpilk on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 11:13:40 PM PDT

  •  asdf (3+ / 0-)

    By the time the newspaper I work for comes out in the morning, the wire news is already at least 12 hours old, the local news has become gossip around town, and the latest court proceedings reporting is about to become supplanted.

    The Web site is at least five years behind where it ought to be. My college Internet magazine was at least as advanced.

    Unless and until newspapers adapt their business models to address the quicker pace of the news day, they will atrophy.

    And publishing the likes of William Kristol and David Broder doesn't help them.

    "Homeless veteran" should be an oxymoron.

    by iampunha on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 11:23:02 PM PDT

  •  No, the Merchants Will Kill the Blogs (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    One Pissed Off Liberal

    as they have killed all media for civilization, once the pioneers improve them enough for a profit model to be seen.

    Blogs, youtube are < 10 years old and still in their infancy. Only a matter of time till the mainstream audiences are served by the corporations.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 11:27:30 PM PDT

  •  megamedia kill blogs? no way (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    One Pissed Off Liberal

    now, blogs are dependent on megamedia to get info. because many in the megamedia have quit investigative reporting, readers can not rely on one article from NY times or other papers to get all the facts and analysis on an issue. Thus, blogs fill an important gap by grabbing info from a number of megamediat articles in order to write one blog post that presents a thorough analysis of an issue, something the megamedia used to do.

    And,we are having more bloggers do original reporting.

    At this point, blogs need at least some of the megamedia to do the investigative reporting and on-the-scene reports from around the US and world to give us the info we need to blog.

  •  Why pay someone to be stupid and wrong (2+ / 0-)

    when I can have all the fun and not pay a dime?

    --- "opendna is high and just makin' shit up outta nowhere." - greenskeeper

    by opendna on Wed Jun 11, 2008 at 12:15:41 AM PDT

  •  Radio will kill TV and books will slay computers. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    One Pissed Off Liberal

    That's the logic of newspapers destroying the blogs.

    Excellent diary, well researched and analysed, on a very interesting topic.

    Children in the U.S... detained [against] intl. & domestic standards." --Amnesty Internati

    by doinaheckuvanutjob on Wed Jun 11, 2008 at 02:36:45 AM PDT

  •  Bullshit. (0+ / 0-)

    Newspapers are withering and dying left and right. The vast majority of their attempts at an on-line presence are brain-dead, with chirping crickets for a soundtrack.

    It's far, far more likely that on-line news sources and quality bloggers like TPM/Josh Marshall will morph into something replacing the dead-tree media than the reverse occuring.

  •  "Strike that. Reverse it." (0+ / 0-) quote Willy Wonka.

    JOHN McCAIN = George W. Bush's 3rd term.

    by chumley on Wed Jun 11, 2008 at 04:15:40 AM PDT

  •  off the top of my head... (0+ / 0-)

    to survive newspapers need to appeal to a cross section of the political spectrum. Is that an advantage nowadays? Are readers in the age of "fair and balanced" Fox still looking for objectivity? Are we in DKos willing to resist a McCain speech after 30 seconds? The NYT needs to have a Bill Kristoll on the Right and a Bob Herbert on the Left with a hate-all-of-you Maureen Dowd in the middle. The blogs will tell you what you want to hear, which is objective enough when you know you are absolutely right about most anything, or when your patience has run out.

    "The more of one time and place is one, the more one is of times and places" -- Unamuno

    by carlosbas on Wed Jun 11, 2008 at 12:12:45 PM PDT

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