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February 24, 2009: "Ink Stained Fingers" 
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Post Re: February 24, 2009: "Ink Stained Fingers"
Very timely post James

Yesterday the Hearst Corporation announced that the SF Chronicle lost $50m last year and is heading for worse this year.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.c ... ness&tsp=1

They have made it clear that unless is gets to break even quickly and enables a sale, they will close the paper.

I think this underlines your points rather well.

Rob


Wed Feb 25, 2009 3:02 pm
Post Re: February 24, 2009: "Ink Stained Fingers"
I think newspapers might have a future IF (and this is a big if) something like Amazon's Kindle really takes off. Nice form-factor, easy access, easy to read with no eye-strain, automatic updates, and no need to have internet access. They have paid subscriptions set up for several periodicals, including several newspapers. Same content, just a different form.

In their current form, they'll be tough to keep viable, however.


Wed Feb 25, 2009 6:07 pm
Post Re: February 24, 2009: "Ink Stained Fingers"
IIRC the statistics in NZ for Newspaper subscriptions in NZ support James' thesis - that being said, I infinitely prefer reading a physical newspaper over obtaining my news from electronic sources.

There is something tangible and comforting about reading a newspaper with a cup of coffee at a table/ desk.

Certainly, the tactility and sensory resonance of a newspaper is far superior IMNSHO to a screen.

It's almost decadent.


...as a related tangent, do you, James [and others] think that electronic media, per the reproduction of actual books, will replace physical books [those with 'real' pages etc].


Wed Feb 25, 2009 6:58 pm
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Post Re: February 24, 2009: "Ink Stained Fingers"
iscariot wrote:
...as a related tangent, do you, James [and others] think that electronic media, per the reproduction of actual books, will replace physical books [those with 'real' pages etc].


This is unlikely to happen soon, if ever. Electronic books will supplement paper books but there are too many actual ones out there for any kind of mass replacement to be possible. In addition, people like to abuse books, drag them around, and do things to them that they wouldn't be willing to do to a more expensive Kindle. So I don't see paper books going away any time in my lifetime.


Wed Feb 25, 2009 7:04 pm
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Post Re: February 24, 2009: "Ink Stained Fingers"
James Berardinelli wrote:
... In addition, people like to abuse books, drag them around, and do things to them that they wouldn't be willing to do to a more expensive Kindle...


True. It probably isn't in the manufacturer's recommendation to throw a Kindle at a wall when the author does something incredibly stupid.


Wed Feb 25, 2009 7:19 pm
Post Re: February 24, 2009: "Ink Stained Fingers"
Half the fun of having a book is displaying them on your self, and browsing through them that way.
The other half is the tactile effect of handling a book itself, flipping through pages, etc.

The Kindle can do nothing about these things. It has managed to replicate the look of paper to some degree with a screen that is more readable than a standard computer screen, but that's about it.
I think this will only increase filesharing - when something is made digital, if people accept it in digital form, it instantly becomes valueless. To today's youth, everything digital is free. That's just the way it is. If a book is no longer physical, then it should just be free. The only reason I can bring myself to own DVDs is that I love the look of all the cases on my shelf.
The Kindle is the beginning of the end for the book industry. The more popular it gets, the more trouble they are in.


Wed Feb 25, 2009 7:32 pm
Post Re: February 24, 2009: "Ink Stained Fingers"
I intern at a newspaper. Trust me, they're dying. Even small town ones. Most of our readership is over fifty and many of them are much older than that.

Which begs the question, what do college kids who are about to graduate with shiny journalism degrees do?


Wed Feb 25, 2009 8:17 pm
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Post Re: February 24, 2009: "Ink Stained Fingers"
Trevor wrote:
Half the fun of having a book is displaying them on your self, and browsing through them that way.
The other half is the tactile effect of handling a book itself, flipping through pages, etc.


Ironically, one of the things I love about digital media is the space they save. I have something like six large bookcases in my house, many of them overstuffed and double stacked. I hate throwing out books. I love the idea of being able to fit them all on a hard drive. Ditto for DVDs. These things take up so much space. That's one of my problems with newspaper: clutter. As I wrote, newspapers left on their own seem to be fruitful and multiply.


Wed Feb 25, 2009 11:07 pm
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Post Re: February 24, 2009: "Ink Stained Fingers"
I spoke to someone tonight who writes for a local college paper. He said that their circulation is up a little this year, but the paper is free. According to him, almost nobody on campus buys either of the city's major papers anymore. They either get their news from the college paper or from on-line sources.


Wed Feb 25, 2009 11:09 pm
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Post Re: February 24, 2009: "Ink Stained Fingers"
James Berardinelli wrote:
I spoke to someone tonight who writes for a local college paper. He said that their circulation is up a little this year, but the paper is free. According to him, almost nobody on campus buys either of the city's major papers anymore. They either get their news from the college paper or from on-line sources.

That's quite interesting, and supports my theory that people like the tactile experience of reading a newspaper or book, but consider them valueless (monetarily) once they are able to be acquired digitally.


Thu Feb 26, 2009 6:56 am
Post Re: February 24, 2009: "Ink Stained Fingers"
...and if they can sell enough advertising space to stay in the black, they can remain free.


Thu Feb 26, 2009 9:22 am
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Post Re: February 24, 2009: "Ink Stained Fingers"
Awf Hand wrote:
...and if they can sell enough advertising space to stay in the black, they can remain free.


The college paper is in the red, and has been for years, but it's subsidized by the university. However, papers like the City Paper are also free because they have enough advertising. They are concerned, however, because of diminishing advertising revenues. It's not a matter of declining circulation but advertisers simply not willing to spend as much.


Thu Feb 26, 2009 3:20 pm
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Post Re: February 24, 2009: "Ink Stained Fingers"
Newspapers have always been a tool of the power elite, and their disappearance can only be a boon. We should be helping to plunge the knife, not moaning about it.

With the Internet, there's no need for newspapers. Few newspaper movie reviewers can hold a candle to Berardinelli. No newspaper can hold a candle to independent reporting. The truth will out, whether they like it or not.


Thu Feb 26, 2009 5:29 pm
Post Re: February 24, 2009: "Ink Stained Fingers"
The only dystopian novel that ever came true was Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.

". . . I remember the newspapers dying like huge moths. No one wanted them back. No one missed them . . ."

As a society, we've decided that thought isn't necessary. I'm only 29, and it makes me feel old.


Thu Feb 26, 2009 9:49 pm
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Post Re: February 24, 2009: "Ink Stained Fingers"
On Friday, February 27, The Rocky Mountain News published its last edition.


Fri Feb 27, 2009 5:06 pm
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Post Re: February 24, 2009: "Ink Stained Fingers"
John L. wrote:
As a society, we've decided that thought isn't necessary. I'm only 29, and it makes me feel old.



I don't see how the death of newspapers is the death of thought in society. What poppycock.


Simply, it means that our form of information and intelligence will change, and adapt. And those who wish for information will be informed, and those who don't will be as uninvolved as always. I think I would start getting alarmed once we decide to start building cities under the sea, Bioshock-style. Then we might have conceded a little too much.


Fri Feb 27, 2009 5:12 pm
Post Re: February 24, 2009: "Ink Stained Fingers"
It's strange. I had a conversation with my grandfather yesterday at a spring training game about the decline of the newspaper industry. He found it absurd that I do not read a newspaper on a daily basis (when I have time to read it, I'll pick up a copy of the New York Times) and asked how I received my news. When I told him that every bit of content in a newspaper can be found online (either on a newspaper's website or a roughly equivalent source) he said that I wasn't experiencing news in the proper and correct way. I really see the newspaper issue as a huge generational divide and I don't think that the form has any real chance of surviving without radical changes like the ones presented in that issue of TIME Magazine a few weeks ago. However, the economic crisis is exacerabating the issue.

Very nice article, James.


Sun Mar 01, 2009 5:19 pm
Post Re: February 24, 2009: "Ink Stained Fingers"
Arguably this has been a long time coming.

I can't really conceive it as an inherently bad thing, I suppose that would require a certain nostalgia for newspapers which I don't particularly have.

A few of you have been making interesting posts with regards to digital media, and e-books specifically. I enjoy the tactility and feel of a book, and would find it difficult to cross over to something like Amazon's Kindle, but that journey was made years ago when it came to my preferred source for news.

I wonder - does this phenomenon cross over into magazines also? FHM, Men's Health, New Scientist, The Economist etc. Surely it does?


Sun Mar 01, 2009 5:39 pm
Post Re: February 24, 2009: "Ink Stained Fingers"
Timely print media in general is a dying format. Special-interest magazines will be around until somebody comes up with an e-reader cheap enough that I don't worry about it sitting behind my toilet. Same deal with airplanes, and anywhere else electronic devices aren't convenient.

Local news can be found online, either on the newspaper's website, the city/town/village/township's website, or in comment threads for existing news sites. Once their print counterparts die out completely, forward-thinking areas will set up online information communities for their citizens. The "Beckwith Township" Wiki will be a much more valuable source of information than a weekly newspaper that can't be indexed or searched.

The people clinging to their newspapers are luddites, and there's nothing wrong with that. They prefer to have their information delivered to them in a format that does not interest new generations. Outside of students who have a keen interest in history, the newspaper will be what "old people used to read" in 20 years.

The Internet will continue to improve its information delivery methods. In the last 10 years alone we've seen the birth of the Wiki, the RSS Feed, the Web Log, Twitter, Youtube, and Bittorrent. 10 years from now we might turn on the LCD monitor embedded into the kitchen table that instantly brings up the article that the personality recognition system has determined to be the best article for me with my morning coffee. After a few touchscreen pushes, I get a full readout of the day's weather localized to my house/place of work. If I still have a commute, the best route will be calculated before I leave the house based on current traffic patterns. Based on the weather, the contents of my closet, and my destination for the day, the "newspaper" might also recommend what I should wear for the day.

Some people will argue "Well I prefer my way," and that's still fine. Just know that you're in the minority.


Mon Mar 02, 2009 12:29 pm
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Post Re: February 24, 2009: "Ink Stained Fingers"
I'm 32, and rarely read physical papers, but their decline bothers me greatly. Not because of the format in which the content is delivered, but because the budget slashing is going to create a situation where you are going to have more reliance on AP/Reuters/etc for content, far more punditry, and far less reporting. Take away Mr. Berardinelli's ability financially to see movies, and I don't think I'd trust his reviews any longer ...

The Internet has created this great personal publishing revolution, but most (non-personal) blogs are commentary and opinions, not actual reporting, especially when the subject doesn't revolve around looking up information from the past already available in electronic form. I know I wouldn't have had the budget to travel to New Orleans to do citizen reporting on Katrina. Anyone traveling to Afghanistan (oh, wait, neither are the newspapers)?

Books smell nice. eReaders, not so much.


Wed Mar 11, 2009 6:44 pm
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