Clay Shirky’s Chicken Little Hypothesis: The Death of Print and Newspapers
While authors and academics like Clay Shirky suggests nothing can. I disagree strongly. To be honest, Shirky’s cries are that of an academic. And I say that as a former academic. He fails to understand that:
1) The Newspaper Experience. people are tactile and enjoy the feel and smell of the newspaper. And perhaps enjoy the experience of magazines even more.
2) Nostalgic Love Affair. Shirky fails to face of to the fact that again and again through history people love nostalgia. The experience of the Sunday newspaper is extremely nostalgic–for some people I’m certain its close to a primal urge. 20 years ago, who would have thought there would be a market for wax records in 2008???
3) Empirical Counter examples. He fails to come face to face with empirical models of cases of print media saving themselves. For instance, innovative magazines like the Readers Digest is creating magazines based on a package service that includes both print and digital. Ultimately, this is a far better solution comparatively than just going online because CPM rates aren’t exactly high, which means the Readers Digest magazines can win even in a world that they aren’t dominating in the Google search rankings.
4) Rose and Age Colored Glasses. His arguments don’t account for old people. Old people are certainly going online, but in select niches and not with extreme regularity.
5) Shirky is an NYC Tech Hipster. His arguments don’t account for rural areas where internet. He lives inside the bubble that is NYC. (I’m not surprised that this argument is probably lost on Carr too)
6) Timing. You can only stair at a computer screen for so long. You can certainly look at the print edition for longer.
7) Reading styles. Personal preferences and reading styles dictate that some folks will just like the experience they get from print.
Ultimately over the longer term the newspapers as a whole are probably on the decline, but its a much larger time frame than Shirky might suggest. Utlimately, his thesis that newspapers should re-examine their current trajectory is probably sage advice, but his thesis is certainly clouded by his membership in the Twitter-ati and NYC academia.
David Lee points out that video can save newspapers:
In the past twelve months we’ve seen the amount of people watching online video go through the roof. But, unlike the YouTube boom that potentially signalled the end for professional journalism (citizen this, citizen that!), this new round of video habits has one crucial factor: length.
The success of the BBC iPlayer has shown that people are prepared to watch video online for a long time. Half an hour or more. And, in the same way the blogs took off once people were used to writing and conversing on the web, I believe that long-form online video will have a similar such boom, where masses consider half an hour spent watching something on their PC a good use of their time.
What’s more, sites such as the brilliant Vimeo show the eagerness of viewers to lap up some full-screen, HD-quality stuff. There’s no sitting around for big downloads, or trying to keep your eyes strained on an awful, grainy clip so tiny you could put a stamp over it.
Video journalism has finally come of age.
As I write this, the Guardian has no less than three pieces of video on its homepage. The NYTimes led with video earlier today — and has a HUGE video section. So too does the Telegraph. Soon, I’ll predict we’ll see video blossoming into the primary content on newspaper sites. Lead headlines always complimented with a video.
Why? Because for the reader, it’s easily digestible, engaging and interesting.
But more importantly, for the publisher, it could prove to be the money-maker they have long been searching for
(Note: this turned into much more of a rant than I expected. I highly respect Shirky and look forward to reading his book “Here Comes Everybody” very soon)