Join 3,562 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The Internet Sucks
October 27, 2006 10:08 AM   Subscribe

Teh Intarweb suXXors! Macleans, the venerable Canadian magazine of declining circulation, declares the Internet a failure. But they're not bitter.
posted by GuyZero (95 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
actually, a writer has declared that, and Macleans published it. I don't think that implies its their perspective at all.
posted by wumpus at 10:14 AM on October 27, 2006


maybe so, but they decided to make that a declaration right on their front cover in very bold letters.
posted by skullbee at 10:16 AM on October 27, 2006


Wait'll they hear about the telegraph.
posted by jonmc at 10:16 AM on October 27, 2006


Try going back to doing the family's laundry by hand for one week, and then see if you'd gladly trade your Internet connection to get your washing machine back.

I sure as hell wouldn't. I would much rather wash my clothes by hand then do without the internet.
posted by delmoi at 10:19 AM on October 27, 2006


Well, Macleans regularly takes positions on all sorts of political issues, so it's not very far off to take the article as an editorial position. But I fear I've been too subtle in the post... is it any coincidence that a magazine that's regularly described as being past its prime with dropping circulation numbers publishes an article slagging its #1 competitor?
posted by GuyZero at 10:19 AM on October 27, 2006


Macleans is competing with the whole internet? They're way behind in the cute kittens and naked ladies. Hop to it, canuckleheads!
posted by jonmc at 10:20 AM on October 27, 2006


Some analysts estimate YouTube is currently losing as much as US$1.5 million every month.

Other analyists actually claim they're making money now, or were before they were bought by google.
posted by delmoi at 10:21 AM on October 27, 2006


hey, notice how they got our attention. apparently their marketing strategy works.
posted by wumpus at 10:22 AM on October 27, 2006


if they're going to start slagging competitors, why not just find an article called "the Walrus sucks"?
posted by wumpus at 10:24 AM on October 27, 2006


I notice roadkill too. I wouldn't call getting run over by a truck a "gopher marketing strategy".
posted by GuyZero at 10:24 AM on October 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


If it hadn't been for the Internet, I doubt I ever would have heard of Macleans magazine.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:26 AM on October 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


There is no distance on the Internet.

That's important to understand. All sites are equally far, location, location, location doesn't matter, matter, matter, and thus there is no special placement or room for borders.

That means you can't control the environment of a captive audience to promulgate a particular worldview. All worldviews are available. All are in conflict.

Porn sites don't begrudge the existence of MacLeans on the Internet -- but the opposite is not true. It is vaguely offensive to MacLeans that they have to compete with jiggling flesh. In the real world, there is distance between those two worlds. Online, it's just a different URL.

There's an interesting corollary: In the real world, we judge a place based on what things are or aren't available there. If Barnes and Noble sold sex toys in a front-and-center display, we'd think somewhat differently of them. (Not necessarily badly, but certainly differently.) But online, everything is available, somewhere. The Internet will always have sex toys.

But MacLeans.Com will not.

So, somehow, we need to create a conceptual distance, in which just because somewhere on the Internet something is available, doesn't mean the judgements attached to that link to every website everywhere. Amish Country is not Las Vegas; we do not judge the former based on the latter. But there is real world distance between the two that keeps those communities separate. Somehow, the same must be conceptually understood online.
posted by effugas at 10:30 AM on October 27, 2006 [7 favorites]


The experts said we needed all of it and more because once we discovered the power of the World Wide Web, there would be no stopping it. Billions would flood into cyberspace, changing everything about the way we communicate, educate and entertain.

I am failing to parse what is incorrect about this statement. Do billions of people not use the internet for communications, education, and entertainment?
posted by quin at 10:32 AM on October 27, 2006


I know billions of my possible progeny have instead been fired into the air as an impromptu celebration of the Web.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:35 AM on October 27, 2006 [8 favorites]


"'It is no exaggeration to conclude that the Internet has achieved, and continues to achieve, the most participatory marketplace of mass speech that this country -- and indeed the world -- has yet seen,' George Will, Newsweek's revered columnist, wrote a few years back. Sounds spectacular, but what's the great value of a participatory marketplace of mass speech if so few have anything to say that's worth buying?
The value of this "participatory marketplace of mass speech" would seem to be, if nothing else, the implied few who do have something to say. And, I'd argue, the act of participation in general. I don't really see the appeal of the "why should people have free and widely reproduced speech if I don't like what they're saying" argument... I don't particularly like the tone of this article, but that doesn't mean that I want it suppressed.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 10:39 AM on October 27, 2006


"Billions would flood into cyberspace, changing everything about the way we communicate, educate and entertain."

There's probably nothing wrong about that sentence, but I think that they were imagining a much different internet than the one that we have today. I know that 10 years ago, I sure as hell was.
posted by drstein at 10:39 AM on October 27, 2006


> If Barnes and Noble sold sex toys in a front-and-center display, we'd think somewhat differently
> of them. (Not necessarily badly, but certainly differently.)

Badly.
posted by jfuller at 10:43 AM on October 27, 2006


I came across an issue of Macleans the other day, and reading it, I was overcome by whatever you'd call the opposite of homesickness.
posted by Flashman at 10:47 AM on October 27, 2006


Amish Country is not Las Vegas;

No wonder I had such a tough time finding a crap game in Lancaster County.

If Barnes and Noble sold sex toys in a front-and-center display, we'd think somewhat differently
of them. (Not necessarily badly, but certainly differently.)


The B&N of sex shops will arrive eventually, espresso bar and all, mark my words.
posted by jonmc at 10:47 AM on October 27, 2006


Still, you can't help but wonder, what else might we have done with all that time and money if we hadn't blown it on the Internet?

Like what? Fight more wars?

What a malformed and misinformed tool. He basically just said "ZOMG. THE WEB WORLD SUCKS. IT'S FULL OF CON MEN AND CRIMINALS." Thank you, brain-trust of Canuckistan.

Saying "if we hadn't blown it on the Internet?" is ridiculously fucking sophmoric and naive. It's like saying "if we hadn't blown it on building freeways."

Not only was the money never in one spot and one pair of hands to be used, if it had not been built what we would have had was a global traffic jam. The underlying network hardware of the 'net also carries phone, voice, data, broadcast video and, OMG, faxes, newswires and telexes!

Like the world, the 'net is what you make of it, and it goes far, far beyond the Web. It goes beyond filesharing. It goes beyond newspapers dumping content into sites.

It should be pretty obvious, but since he's at least a bit subtle in spots, this is basically the same rehashed sour-grapes argument that's been flogged to a pulpy stain on the floor.

If I'm the barbarian at the gate, well, fuck it. I've been meaning to get a helmet with horns anyway, and maybe a nice, big war-hammer. It'll go well with my pirate eye patch.

Hi, there, Mr. Fancy Newsmag Reporter! Hey, look, you have competition now! Who? Me!

I write more than you. On a daily basis. I'm also a better writer than you. I read more than you do, and I'm better informed. And I do it for free, because I love to think and write. It gets my rocks off. I love stretching my brain. I'm faster and denser. I'm on the bleeding edge, and I've been there for over two decades, a full 2/3rds of my life, and I have no plans on letting go any time soon.

And you know what? I bet my words have been read by more people in more countries than you. How's that feel? You feeling obsolete yet? Suck it, hater. Adapt, perish or get the fuck out of the way.
posted by loquacious at 10:50 AM on October 27, 2006 [35 favorites]


loquacious, I wish I could fave that a brazilian times.
posted by GuyZero at 10:55 AM on October 27, 2006


What non-Canadian readers may not understand is that the 'right wing' press in Canada (Maclean's & the Post at least) is drying up and blowing away. Even when we have a minority Tory government (of course they were only elected to punish the Liberals, but don't tell Harper that).

As the shaming of Lord Black continues apace, and it becomes clear that Harper will be almost certainly be a one-term blip, the right can only complain and bemoan, complain and bemoan. Sitting ringside, and watching BushCo self-destruct to boot, it feels pretty good.

In short: Hahahahahahahahahahaha...
posted by stinkycheese at 10:57 AM on October 27, 2006


They also put Mark Steyn's latest idiocy (with a mucho inflammatory photo) on the front cover last week. We actually subscribe to Macleans and that guy Steve Maich wrote something a year or so ago, and I can't remember what the hell it was, but it led to me skipping him every issue. I read a little bit of this one and thought it was nonsense, the paragraph about YouTube in particular made him seem very out of touch.
posted by jamesonandwater at 10:59 AM on October 27, 2006


The Internet sucks.

Right from the beginning, experts competed with one another to see who could attach the most outrageous superlative to the nascent technology.


yep. experts suck.

Bill Gates, in a famous editorial for the New York Times, called the Internet a "tidal wave" that "will wash over the computer industry and many others, drowning those who don't learn to swim in its waves."

yep. bill gates sucks.

The great multinational exchange of ideas and goodwill has devolved into a food fight.

a thing nonexistent cannot devolve. bzzt.

The answers to the great questions of our world may be out there somewhere, but finding them will require you to first wade through an ocean of misinformation, trivia and sludge.

true with or without an internet.

Emails replace faxes and phone calls. Online shopping replaces sales that used to be made through a catalogue. And for all but the most socially isolated, every hour spent trolling through chat rooms replaces an hour that might otherwise have been spent...

...watching television.

...hype can be a very lucrative business.

yep. you got paid for writing this abomination.

As we all remember, the real trouble started with Napster...

dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun!
*shark fin*

The whole system of ascribing an economic value to works of art has been thrown out the window.

that was a system? who knew?

The news first hit the wires around 10 a.m., and at 10:06 Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that allows users to update and modify entries, proclaimed that Lay had died "of an apparent suicide."

wikipedia sucks.

The designers of the Internet put their deepest faith in the wisdom of the masses to establish truth and value by consensus.

designers suck.

...the onslaught of blogs, wikis and social networking websites is destroying our culture by celebrating mediocrity and devaluing talent.

not unlike the aforementioned corporate systems of ascribing value to "art", eh?

...the Net has fed the cynical perception that every form of traditional authority is based on lies and corruption.

it mostly is, no?

The much-hyped free market of ideas is a world in which the loudest and most outrageous assertion dominates the discussion.

kinda like this article, huh?

Everybody believes they are being oppressed by those opposed to them.

i know way more people who do not beleive that than who do. i'd say it's about 99 to 1. from which orifice did you extract that "fact"?

the public at large saw an open invitation to indulge vice on an unimaginable scale.

see also: human history

the vast majority of what we do online is utterly trivial.

the vast majority of what we do period is utterly trivial.

Stories of Trojan-horse programs stealing your passwords, worms burrowing into your hard drive, and spyware tracking your every move barely raise eyebrows anymore. We not only accept them, we expect them.

ah! running IE on WinXP, eh?

As for the promise that simply by opening the lines of communication humanity would lay down arms and sing Kumbaya...

sorry pollyanna. they lied.

journalism. LOLZ!
posted by quonsar at 11:02 AM on October 27, 2006 [11 favorites]


loquacious, I wish I could fave that a brazilian times.

That sounds painful. Please stay away from my innumerable hairy bits with anything resembling hot wax.
posted by loquacious at 11:05 AM on October 27, 2006


I think the internet needs a tagline and I think it should be,

The Internet: Maybe we're a failure, but we cornholed you right proper Macleans, how's that feel? A little salty?
posted by Divine_Wino at 11:06 AM on October 27, 2006


Strange, I was just thinking early this we that the internet has been a far more transformative technology than I initially imagined it would be.

delmoi writes "I sure as hell wouldn't. I would much rather wash my clothes by hand then do without the internet."

Hell, yeah.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:08 AM on October 27, 2006


lol
posted by rxrfrx at 11:14 AM on October 27, 2006


Besides, if you watch craigslist for long enough you can pick up a washer and dryer for cheap, if not free. Or you could just order up some laundry service.
posted by loquacious at 11:15 AM on October 27, 2006


For anyone keeping track, Maclean's also recently announced that the sexual revolution isn't all it's cracked up to be either.

Reading the article this is plain to see, what with Hugh Hefner's carpets now smelling like pee.
posted by stinkycheese at 11:17 AM on October 27, 2006


Heh, this guy needs a clue. He probably just resents teh internets because his pop mail keeps getting forwarded to hotmail.
posted by madamjujujive at 11:20 AM on October 27, 2006 [2 favorites]


loquacious just won at the Internet.

Unfortunately according to the article, apparently that's not really that big a deal.

loq, I've been a big fan of your writing on MeFi in the past, but today you went above and beyond. And with that, you just got bumped into the "My Personal Heroes" category. quonsar came in a close second.
posted by quin at 11:35 AM on October 27, 2006


Thanks, quin. If you haven't seen it yet, you might like this less abrasive screed, which does a better job of summarizing why I like the internet and why I think its a success.
posted by loquacious at 11:45 AM on October 27, 2006


I think I can sum this article up i one word: "Wah.".
posted by ninjew at 11:55 AM on October 27, 2006


In at least one regard the article is dead wrong. In the academic fields, it has allowed experiments that were previously impossible. I am speaking of why the Web was invented: high energy physics.
posted by noble_rot at 11:59 AM on October 27, 2006


And I'll even explain why: because it allows distributed analysis of the terabytes of data acquired during the course of an experimental high energy physics run.
posted by noble_rot at 12:00 PM on October 27, 2006


And for all but the most socially isolated, every hour spent trolling through chat rooms replaces an hour that might otherwise have been spent in real, live conversation.

What bullshit. On so many levels.

For the socially isolated, the internet has provided a means to connect with others that isn't limited by geography or means or a million other limiting factors like class or educational barriers.

For those who are socially isolated by choice or nature (introverts), the internet provides a painless way to interact with others while preserving precious solitude.

And finally, of course, conversations on the internet aren't any less "real" or "live" than any other conversation. They're certainly more immediate (and therefore live) than the old-fashioned medium of letter writing, and they're no less immediate than the less old-fashioned medium of telephonic communication.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 12:07 PM on October 27, 2006


Well they certainly have a point.
I wouldn't even be reading this crap if it hadn't been posted here. If Macleans were the only magazine in the dentist's office, I'd watch the goldfish.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:11 PM on October 27, 2006


Most wouldn't dare steal a DVD from a store shelf, but downloading the latest video release to watch with some friends is no big deal. Ask them if they consider it stealing, and they'll look at you like you're crazy.

Easy -- that's because it's not stealing. It's copying. Learn the difference people!
posted by Laugh_track at 12:13 PM on October 27, 2006


My thanks to loquacious and quonsar et al. for actually reading, digesting and poo-pooing all of that. After the first few paragraphs I started feeling an unhealthy compulsion to hunt down and break the fingers of whoever wrote this diarretic drivel. That or subject him to a year long Ludovico technique-style program to prevent such an execrable attempt at insight ever again reaching my unwitting brain.

I read a lot of random essays on the internet, rarely have I come across such a lengthy, fetid, fearful, doublethinking, hopelessly biased, short-sighted, lacking in comprehension and the god-given sense most are born with, and just plain wrong attempt at analysis and communication, published by a real publisher (outside of politcs and religion).

A classically shoddy piece of writing that should be preserved for future generations to gape at in hideous awe.
posted by MetaMonkey at 12:16 PM on October 27, 2006


"No sir, I don't like it."

Seriously, Macleans would have denounced moveable type because it made too much information available to too many people too quickly.

It's not even fun to take shots at them anymore- they should just change their name to Straw Man Magazine.

"Macleans: whatever it is, we're against it."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:21 PM on October 27, 2006


To: letters@macleans.ca

From: The Internet.

Subject: Attention: Steve Maich, Macleans editors, et alii.

The Internet has judged you and found you lacking, in which you are torn a new excretory orifice: http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/55860

Please do enjoy your shambling descent into ambiguity, irrelevance and further uselessness.

Love,

The Internet.
posted by loquacious at 12:38 PM on October 27, 2006


"Macleans: whatever it is, we're against it."


The Internet: Whatever it is, we'll let you see it naked.
posted by spicynuts at 12:40 PM on October 27, 2006


The B&N of sex shops will arrive eventually, espresso bar and all, mark my words.

Just be wary of what they use to make their lattes.
posted by pardonyou? at 12:41 PM on October 27, 2006


What a great thread. I've never favorited so many comments -- with loquacious' and quonsar's absolutely inspired.

I've also never used "favorite" as a verb before.
posted by pardonyou? at 12:48 PM on October 27, 2006


The internet sucks! Now let's post the story we wrote about how the internet sucks on our internet site!
posted by Effigy2000 at 12:50 PM on October 27, 2006


Verbing weirds language.
posted by loquacious at 12:51 PM on October 27, 2006


I love you, guys.
posted by jmhodges at 12:53 PM on October 27, 2006


Troll

0/10
posted by WoWgmr72 at 1:00 PM on October 27, 2006


Hrm. Do magazines have sweeps months?

(I'm thinking also of those execrable Macleans Canadian university rankings, which always seem to have the media up here in an absolute tizzy for a couple of weeks when they're announced.)
posted by hangashore at 1:11 PM on October 27, 2006


Before the thread gets too deep, I just have to add...

Among the top 10 Google searches that point out how we're using the internet for "trivial" things, they list Hurricane Katrina and tsunami.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:22 PM on October 27, 2006


"Last year, the top 10 Google searches were as follows: Janet Jackson, hurricane Katrina, tsunami, xBox 360, Brad Pitt, Michael Jackson, American Idol, Britney Spears, Angelina Jolie, and Harry Potter. Berners-Lee's interactive sea of shared knowledge is primarily concerned with two actors, three singers, a video game console, a TV show, a fictional character and two natural disasters."

Mm-hmm. So Hurricane Katrina, with all its related political fall-out, and a tsunami that killed a quarter of a million people are mere natural disasters, scarcely worthy of a glance. I'll keep that in mind.

And the internet is responsible for American entertainers being popular. I suppose that Maich blames cross-contamination from the perfidious intertube thingy for the fact that Macleans itself diligently follows these and other stars' every move, as a quick search of Macleans' own website reveals.

What an ass. This article is a great demonstration of why Macleans is sinking fast.

On preview: nods to Slarty
posted by senor biggles at 1:40 PM on October 27, 2006


Berners-Lee's interactive sea of shared knowledge is primarily concerned with two actors, three singers, a video game console, a TV show, a fictional character and two natural disasters.

The other flaw in this logic is the move from the "Top 10" to "primarily concerned". As mach as I have to use a trite catchphrase, dude, it's called the Long Tail. The Top 10 are less important than the bottom 1,000,000. The Internet has made the idea of the "Top 10" obsolete. Again, sucks for Macleans, as they can't stick the bottom 1,000,000 between the covers of a weekly printed magazine. And they're not owned by a media megacorp willing to run them as a loss leader.

One word Macleans: buggy whips.
posted by GuyZero at 2:00 PM on October 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


*grabs the Long Tail and whips it good*
posted by loquacious at 2:06 PM on October 27, 2006


The internet is a free medium. It's also the quickest and easiest portal ever conceived to display what we think to the masses. Therefore, the contents of the billions of files that make it up are a direct reflection of the contents of the billions of brains that built it.

If the internet is a failure, it is because Homo Sapiens is a failure.
Fix the problem at the source, don't blame the messenger.
posted by CynicalKnight at 2:27 PM on October 27, 2006


I'm surprised that nobody's mentioned that the aptly named Ken Whyte recently became the editor/publisher/busboy. That's a real shot in the...er...somewhere. His stellar track record includes the much admired pitchfork prairie populist screedfest "Alberta Report" *cringes* and, when former Canadian Lord Black of Crossharbour still ran the show, that perennial money pit of smug and delusional 'contrarianism' The National Post. It'll all end badly for this 'venerable institution of Canadian publishing'™
posted by hobocode at 2:43 PM on October 27, 2006


ooh, my grandparents used to send us copies of Alberta Report for bathroom reading. And to think I was going to blow 50 airmiles on a free subscription of Macleans. Not now, suckas.
posted by furtive at 2:55 PM on October 27, 2006


As someone who has occasionally picked up a Macleans, I can assure you that it's a uniformly boring magazine.
posted by The God Complex at 2:58 PM on October 27, 2006


They told us "cities" would be centers of learning and culture. But instead they're full of filth!
posted by grobstein at 3:19 PM on October 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


Allow me to play devil's advocate for a minute.

I read most of the article (I skipped a few bits in the middle) and what it seems to be saying is not that the Internet sucks, but that the Internet has, rather spectacularly, failed to live up to its early promise and the breathless "OMGTEHINTERNETSWILLCHANGETHEWORLD" hype that hit in the late 90's/early 00's.

Take this quote, for example:

Even in the research and academic communities, which always had the most to gain from the Internet, Gordon says, the advantages should be kept in perspective. "It has made collaboration and communication faster and more efficient, but we're still doing the same things..."
(emphasis mine)


Was the Internet good for shortening/eliminating distances between people, collaborating teams of workers, and other disparate groups? Sure it was. But to go from there to "The Internet is the best thing ever invented" is a bit of a stretch.

Put another way, the Internet didn't invent collaborative work, or globalization, it just assists it in a way that telephones and television alone could not.

I think the Internet is a useful tool, but I kinda understand what Macleans is saying here. The Internet, as currently constituted, is not allowing humanity to do much that it hasn't done in slower ways in the past (we've always been able to work with coworkers across the country, to find and look at nekkid-people pictures, and to exchange music, after all), and it's that lack of revolution which Macleans seems to be trying to decry.

They go way overboard in trying to decry it, I will grant you, but I don't think the premise is as flawed as this article makes it out to be.
posted by pdb at 3:30 PM on October 27, 2006


I remember an exchange from my IRC days circa 1998-abouts that went like:

If you guys are so bored, why are you sitting on IRC all day?
Because using a service that connects you to millions of people worldwide is better than staring at a wall. Ask me another stupid question.

Also the internet got me laid. Sorry MacDougals, or whatever your name is, you lose.

posted by Uther Bentrazor at 3:37 PM on October 27, 2006


I think the Internet is a useful tool, but I kinda understand what Macleans is saying here. The Internet, as currently constituted, is not allowing humanity to do much that it hasn't done in slower ways in the past (we've always been able to work with coworkers across the country, to find and look at nekkid-people pictures, and to exchange music, after all), and it's that lack of revolution which Macleans seems to be trying to decry.

Speed is the fucking revolution. I sure couldn't read The New York Times, The Guardian, BBC online, and a number of other global newspapers every day without the internet. Sure that's not "hey we can travel through space-time", but it's not the abject failure this article makes it out to be--not even close.

As someone who just recently finished my undergraduate degree, I can't even begin to imagine what a godawful chore research must have been before all the good academic journals started to be archived online. When you step back for a second--which, incidentally, isn't that easy for me to do, given that I've been using the internet since I was twelve--it's pretty neat that I can almost instantly search the database of academic journals from John Hopkins, or the University of Toronto, or any number of other highly regarded academic institutions.

The internet is a communications revolution, not an information revolution. It doesn't necessarily change the way we create information (though it can and often does), but it more importantly changed the ease with which information could be disseminated to those that want it. The fact that so much of the net is gambling and porn isn't a reflection on the internet, but the people that use it. They gets what they wants, and that's neither good nor bad.

Life is better because of places like Metafilter. I firmly believe this or I wouldn't be here.
posted by The God Complex at 3:50 PM on October 27, 2006


I can't even begin to imagine what a godawful chore research must have been before all the good academic journals started to be archived online.

I'm 37, graduated college in 1991. My college had all the good academic journals in their library, in print form. Finding them (and finding things in them) was admittedly nowhere near as fast as it is today, but neither was it a dark stone age where information was shackled in a big underground warehouse in East Jesus Nowhere that only three cavemen who knew a secret handshake and had a decoder ring had access to.

I guess my point is that different does not equal revolutionary. The Internet's great, and I owe my career to it in part, but it didn't really revolutionize things like finding journal articles and such - it just evolved them at a much more rapid rate than had been previously seen.
posted by pdb at 3:58 PM on October 27, 2006


Well, what I mean is, many of the university's online databases these days have literally thousands (perhaps in excess of ten thousand) of different journals, and dozens if not hundreds of volumes for each of these journals. Imagine the logistics of doing this in even one-hundred university's across, say, North America? It means the information is concentrated in the larger, wealthier schools that can afford such a thing. I went to a reasonably small school (for a number of reasons) and had access to much, if not all, of the same information that some of my friends at "big" Canadian university's had. I'm not sure that would be the case without online databasing.

The fees to subscribe to the databases is still somewhat prohibitive, but not nearly as much.

I guess my point is that different does not equal revolutionary. The Internet's great, and I owe my career to it in part, but it didn't really revolutionize things like finding journal articles and such - it just evolved them at a much more rapid rate than had been previously seen.

Sure it does. Did automobiles "revolutionize" land travel? Did airplanes "revolutionize" intercontinental travel? I think the internet is very much a "momentous change" in how information is presented and disseminated.

Just think about wireless hubs at, say, the airport. You can open your laptop computer and connect immediately to a vast network of information that is readily accessible for a very low cost. Just because there's a lot of junk on the internet doesn't mean it hasn't accomplished, in spades, what it set out to do. It surely has. The alternative is that they regulated the shit out of the internet so that only "good" stuff was there. I don't like that alternative, personally. I already have a telvision that vomits controlled information at me.

I'll take my wikipedia anyday of the week!

You old codgers... ;)
posted by The God Complex at 4:11 PM on October 27, 2006


pdb:

The internet revolution is in it's infancy; it only entered the life of the average person within the last 10 years. Already it has disrupted music, video, news, commerce, finance, military actions, the creation and dissemination of art and ideas, the sharing of scientific knowledge... and this is just the beginning, the tip of the iceberg. Compare and contrast with telephony, flight, refridgeration, printing, television - the effects were slow to impact most people. The best comparison is telegraphy, which did pretty much revolutionise a whole bunch of stuff, but far more slowly.

It is not an invention like flight or x-rays that let you do exciting physical things (yet), but it is a force-multiplyer - it makes the communication, uptake and improvement of information orders-of-magnitude faster and more efficient than before. It allows massive and immediate collaboration in a way the telephone system never could. It allow the connection of entirely disparate (socially, geographically etc.) people. It allows access to information no library ever could.

And to re-iterate - this is the beginning. Now the infrastructure is in place, and people are getting hip to the possibilities, only time will tell what kinds of revolutionary things people implement using it. Few can guess at the depth and breadth of the long-tail weirdness going on in net niches, people finding like-minds to develop their unique perspectives and ideas, when for the rest of history those people would simply die forgotten.

On preview: I guess my point is that different does not equal revolutionary. The Internet... didn't really revolutionize things like finding journal articles and such - it just evolved them at a much more rapid rate than had been previously seen.

A much, much, much more rapid rate. Which constitutes a revoltion in the making, by any but the most selective definition of 'revolution'.

I'm falling over my own thoughts trying to describe the stupendousnous of the change humanity is undergoing at this point in time - from a period where people knew only their close neighbors (99% of history), to the period where an elite few got to publish newspapers and books (the last couple hundred years), to a period where the majority of humanity can communicate and interact in real time with anyone, anywhere. The hyperbole stands: this is the biggest deal since language.
posted by MetaMonkey at 4:21 PM on October 27, 2006


Holy shit do we ever get defensive when a crappy Canadian magazine tries to stir up some notoriety.

And suceeds.

Save that energy for MeTa, kids!


(Also, the Mordecai Richler bit in the back of this week's issue? Suck city!)
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 4:47 PM on October 27, 2006


delmoi writes "I would much rather wash my clothes by hand then do without the internet."

No kidding, I'd give up all my electrical appliances except my fridge as long as you gave me a nice fat pipe to the net and a computer capable of running firefox.

pdb writes "My college had all the good academic journals in their library, in print form. Finding them (and finding things in them) was admittedly nowhere near as fast as it is today, but neither was it a dark stone age where information was shackled in a big underground warehouse in East Jesus Nowhere that only three cavemen who knew a secret handshake and had a decoder ring had access to. "

I graduated in the same time frame. My college's library was much less well equipped and even then the internet was a firehose of information. Anyone remember companies making tech support available thru fax back? Needing to connect to the companies own BBS to get new drivers?

One of their pet peeves seems to be all the dead fiber. Considering the cost difference in laying 1 strand of fibre and a dozen is about 1% it would be criminal not to have tons of dead fibre hanging around.
posted by Mitheral at 5:01 PM on October 27, 2006


What the fuck is the internet?
posted by goat at 5:04 PM on October 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


Speed isn't the only barrier the internet has overcome. Cost is another, as well as time which is qualitatively different than speed.

Sure, we're mostly doing the same stuff we did before.

That should be expected. We ate, shat, fought, fucked and even taught an learned from each other before the printing press , too.

But the barriers to entry are insanely low now. People throw away perfectly suitable computers capable of everything from desktop publishing to music composition as well as connecting to and interacting with the 'net at large.

Sure, all of those books, all of those research publications and resources existed before. Locked away form the public, for the most part, or inaccessible due to geographic distances, or reproduction costs.

For good or evil the internet is great exactly because it is the world's largest duplication machine. Every time you load a page it copies that page to your computer. Every image, every resource, every mote of text - to display it, it must copy it.

Ignoring bandwidth costs - one copy or a billion, it doesn't matter. The more copies that are made, the more the actual energy and logistical costs actually diminish rapidly to such small fractions of cents that it quickly approaches zero.

And that's what the old media just doesn't get at all. Which is their loss, because they're being handed a fantastic opportunity on a plate - yet they turn their noses up at it.

But maybe they really aren't about culture and the free exchange of ideas. Maybe they're afraid of being ousted as the gatekeepers and arbiters of taste, the deciders, the critics and editors. Maybe they're really just about selling dead trees and other commodified containers.

Or when they do manage to dimly perceive the enormous elephant (and all of its wisdom and pervasive, perversive memory) looming in the room, they shatter from the cognitive dissonance and just go to pieces, shrieking senselessly (laughably) about our certain doom - and then they'll go so far as to insist, wheedle and imply that this certain doom is indeed mutual, that the sky is falling, and we're all in terrible, terrible cultural danger.

This is an entirely ludicrous, irrational viewpoint, if not criminal and monopolistic in intent.

Culture - art, literature and music - existed well before media conglomerates and distribution chains. Hell, it exists despite media conglomerates. Folks made music, wrote plays, told tales since before the dawn of intellect and civilization. There was parity, then and there, and more diversity. It was really the only way for humanity to communicate with itself.

And from where I'm sitting the cultural revolution is well underway. There are millions and millions of people out there actively participating in creating and consuming everything from music, to literature, to visual arts, to photography to theater and film, and all sorts of new media to boot. People are building and creating new art forms as we speak.

Is the bulk of it self-redeeming? Who cares! It doesn't matter! 90% of everything has been crap with or without the internet - you just couldn't go out there bathe in it like you can now.

If it matters to the participants - both creator and consumer, then that's all that matters! Communication is occurring, ideas are being exchanged.

Even wondering if it matters to a mass broadcast audience is thinking in terms of old media, of centralized distribution.

Remember, the cost of publishing is vanishing rapidly. We don't have to hold any given creation up to the same terms of "value" that we once did when considering the costs of production and reproduction.

Which, as we experience with technology like digital photography, is incredibly, indescribably liberating. Suddenly every media is very nearly cost-free to practice and experiment with. Suddenly we can actually play with these complex machines that were once fantastically expensive.

Suddenly these stiff, formal tools and methods are toys and playgrounds for the mind, and even the body and soul.

And of all of the things humans do, play is the most important of all.

It's the nursery of innovation, of discovery and exploration - and it is not only our goddamned birthright, it's essential to the human condition, to growth and evolution.

I'll pluck out my own damn eyes before I let someone take that away from me or anyone else.
posted by loquacious at 5:18 PM on October 27, 2006


it makes the communication, uptake and improvement of information orders-of-magnitude faster and more efficient than before.

Absolutely it does. It's entirely possible that I'm just being overly pedantic here, but to me, that doesn't mean it's a revolution, more of a rapid evolution.

Which constitutes a revolution in the making, by any but the most selective definition of 'revolution'.

I guess I'm going with the selective definition, then, but I do see your point. We only disagree on the semantics of the word "revolution", which means it's time for me to stop beating this horse to death and go back to looking for pictures of boobies. Viva the internet tubes!
posted by pdb at 5:22 PM on October 27, 2006


Google News, Craigslist and the world army of bloggers have devalued journalism just as surely as Napster poisoned the market for recorded music.

Craigslist is a news service now?
posted by imperium at 6:02 PM on October 27, 2006


pdb, I figured we had similar viewpoints, but I'll take any excuse to wax evangelical when it comes to the net ;)

But on further reflection, I am compelled to restate my case in far simpler terms: the internet is revolutionary because it allows cheap, instant, simple, durable, many-to-many communication; whereas previously communication was 1-to-1 (phone) or 1-to-many (print), as well as being slow and/or expensive.
posted by MetaMonkey at 6:08 PM on October 27, 2006


Craigslist is a news service now?

No, but Craigslist is basically killing off the local weekly newsrag ad well as traditional newspapers who get much of their revenue from classified ads. Especially personal ads and real estate ads.
posted by loquacious at 6:15 PM on October 27, 2006


No, but Craigslist is basically killing off the local weekly newsrag ad well as traditional newspapers who get much of their revenue from classified ads. Especially personal ads and real estate ads.

This touches on what I found to be the most important point of the article. While the Internet is a great medium for publishing, the financial maiming of traditional newspapers does not bode well for quality reporting. In-depth reporting is an expensive business which is why only a select few companies can manage to do it well and profit. Would you like to pay Seymour Hersch's travel expenses? The kind of international journalism found in the New Yorker, Harpers and the NYT requires overhead that simply cannot be matched by any blogger, even if that person had the journalistic abilities to report to that standard. There are many things to celebrate about the Net, but I'm not sure that weakening the power of the traditional news journals is one of them. Sure it's nice to get Craiglist for free, but I don't know if it's such a great deal if that means I don't have the New York Times anymore.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 8:00 PM on October 27, 2006


Kraftmatic is 100% right there. It's slightly bewildering to me how something apparently so well suited to mass communication has weakened the power of traditional mass media, without replacing it with its own.
posted by bonaldi at 8:29 PM on October 27, 2006


Google News, Craigslist and the world army of bloggers have devalued journalism just as surely as Napster poisoned the market for recorded music.

Oh? I guess then I spent some hours this week "devaluing" a dodgy story published by a mainstream paper with my little blog.
posted by gomichild at 8:32 PM on October 27, 2006


Did your little blog completely undermine the funding model for mainstream papers? No? shut the fuck up, then
posted by bonaldi at 8:44 PM on October 27, 2006


Christ, that was unnecessarily harsh, sorry gomichild. I'm touchy on this one because there's a tendency to laud the bright new media world as fantastic, when it actually puts at risk a good chunk of the old, without replacing it.

Good, high-quality investigative journalism is really expensive, and it doesn't pay for itself. It never has: newspapers don't cover their costs from the cover price, they subsidise editorial with lots of other money-making schemes: classified ads, property ads, display ads and so on. It worked because they went hand-in-hand: want one (either one) and get the other. Everyone happy.

Now the net has split editorial away from the things that pay for it, editorial is essentially fucked. And so is the brave new media world, which does an awful lot of linking to old-world reporting.
posted by bonaldi at 8:49 PM on October 27, 2006


It's slightly bewildering to me how something apparently so well suited to mass communication has weakened the power of traditional mass media, without replacing it with its own.

Well, you're probably slightly bewildered because you're too stupid to realize it's only been slightly less than a decade since the internet started to reach the masses, and that "replace" is the wrong way to look at it. TV irrevocably changed the film industry and redefined how it did business, but it didn't "replace" it like many people at the time thought it would. Traditional media and new media will find a balance eventually - always have, always will, as long as both are profitable-, and situations like the one gomichild blogged about are the first steps towards acheiving that balance.

Did it undermine the funding model for a mainstream paper? No, probably not, but it certainly undermined its veneer of credibility, which is the one thing that the MSM still has over new media.

Also, why such an asshole?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:06 PM on October 27, 2006


Well, that was some good bile completely wasted.

Preview, dammit, preview!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:07 PM on October 27, 2006


TV irrevocably changed the film industry and redefined how it did business, but it didn't "replace" it like many people at the time thought it would.
This is being banded about a lot; Radio lives, cinema lives, TV lives and so on. But what they changed was not the business model, but the content model. TV makes money from different advertisers than radio, while cinemas make money from people coming in the door. As long as the content was compelling enough to continue attracting an audience, they'd be OK. And so it turned out.

The internet though, is doing what newspapers do to make money, and it's doing it really, really well. It's replacing them entirely, by making them obsolete: not in content, in business model. The quality of the content is, well, irrelevant really. Which is why:
always have, always will, as long as both are profitable-
is unlikely to peg out.

so, ye, replace is the wrong word. Obsolete is the right one.
posted by bonaldi at 9:19 PM on October 27, 2006


I'm not particularly well-informed about the current state of the newspaper industry, but I keep coming across the suggestion that 'high-quality investigative journalism' is in danger, an am concerned about this. But what I want is facts - are newspapers losing money because of the web, and if so how much? Are web adverts not profitable for newspapers? How much exactly are Seymour Hersch's travel expenses? I'm betting if he wrote to a theoretical group journalist blog instead of a paper he'd get at least as much in ad money as his salary+expenses (frickin boing boing pulls $1mil a year, techcrunch (one guy) gets $60k/month).

As a net-lover, I have a kind of informed faith that somehow the net will improve the finding and reporting of news, though it may take time, soul-searching and perhaps a little innovation. Could it be that the offline model simple needs adjustment to work online? Maybe ditch the bits better served elsewhere and focus on real reporting, which is really what people want from their news source. My logic being that at the moment the newspapers are serving two masters - paper buyers and online readers. When some start to focus on online rather than off, they may find there are reasonable economies to be had that are no detriment to the quality of journalism, and moreover that by innovating they can increase the quality, quantity and revenue of journalism.

As a counterpoint, here is a stimulating look at how the net could improve news, by treating it as data rather than 'stories'. Another example would be loosly federated news networks of semi-freelance journalists, who then sell/publish their work through more than one network at a time.

Finally, this is simple economics - if people demand news on the net (and they certainly do) there will be supply, and there are a lot of quality journalists happy to do it. If existing media cannot figure out how to bridge the gap, someone else will.
posted by MetaMonkey at 9:22 PM on October 27, 2006


The quality of the content is, well, irrelevant really.

I just wanted to see that again.
posted by Wolof at 9:37 PM on October 27, 2006


But what I want is facts - are newspapers losing money because of the web, and if so how much?
OK, I can't talk in specifics here, but yes, they're losing money, and yes it's a lot. The decline in classifieds in SF is well documented, for instance.

Are web adverts not profitable for newspapers?
They're about as profitable as they for everyone else on the net -- which is to say not much. They'll support one guy and his blog, not 300 folk and their families. The newspaper advertising model is very complex. boingBoing makes in a year what The Times makes in about ... three days.

Take one example: Adverts for homes. This rakes in an incredible amount of cash. In one paper I know of, one week's property advertising will pay the whole group's salary bill for a month. But newsprint is a shit way to advertise homes -- the web does it much, much better. But newspapers can't charge anything like what they do for a print ad online: the estate agent will just set up their own website.

Finally, this is simple economics - if people demand news on the net (and they certainly do) there will be supply, and there are a lot of quality journalists happy to do it.
This is the dirty secret: nobody demands news, not really. Apart from at times of big stories, what shifts newspapers is habit, crosswords, TV listings, house hunters, job hunters and so on.

News is very rarely the reason people buy papers: a splash about corruption in dentistry will get dentists buying, and the minister for health buying, but nobody else. The power of the print media comes from its ubiquity: the readers may not buy the paper for it, but that story about corruption is on everyone's front page.

If that paper sells 6m copies -- that's 6m people who are now aware of it. The government has to respond. Only a small fraction of that 6m actually cared about it, but the government knows that next morning there had better be an explanation story running, or that number will grow.

By contrast, if it ran on a blog somewhere, only the far smaller number of people who actually care will seek it out/see it. The government doesn't have to respond.

Journalists on papers are given their power by the millions of crossword puzzlers and job hunters, not by concerned citizens. Transferring that power is very difficult, and without it, you don't get the access, the scoops, the stories. The attention.

I just wanted to see that again.
Believe me: I hate that with a passion. But it's a fact that journalists are slowly waking up to: it doesn't matter if you put out a pulitzer-winning paper every day, you still can't survive in print. The business model is fucked.
posted by bonaldi at 9:45 PM on October 27, 2006


Interesting stuff, bonaldi. A dark time for the traditional news business indeed, though I'm not convinced all is lost just yet. Here's a stimulating Guardian article: "We all read freesheets and devour news at no cost on the web but what would happen if all papers were free? Richard Addis does the sums and finds some surprising results".
posted by MetaMonkey at 11:24 PM on October 27, 2006


Bonaldi: thanks for several good comments.
posted by Termite at 1:30 AM on October 28, 2006


It is my distinct pleasure to announce that:

"just about everything we've been told about the Internet and what the information age would mean has come up short"

is disproven every day by several of the discussions *right here* on MeFi.

That's not flattery, that's a fact Jack.
posted by Twang at 1:57 AM on October 28, 2006


"MacLeans.Com"

Dino-sores.com
posted by Twang at 1:59 AM on October 28, 2006


The big problem with his analysis, MetaMonkey, is when he says "75% of newspaper income comes from advertising, and advertising goes where the readers are". He sets out to show that you can feasibly run a paper on 75% income.

"Advertising", however, isn't one big block of stuff. The advertising he's talking about, the stuff that goes where the readers are, is display advertising -- which is only about 30-35% of the income. The rest is made up of classified advertising like cars, houses, personals, jobs, and that goes where the best return is -- the internet, increasingly.

You can't run a paper of equivalent quality on 35% of the income, although a few paper barons are having a real good try.
posted by bonaldi at 6:35 AM on October 28, 2006


"OK, I can't talk in specifics here, but yes, they're losing money, and yes it's a lot. The decline in classifieds in SF is well documented, for instance."

But that's a specific type of news model— that of alt-weeklies, which are bouyed by the Craigslist market.
And newspapers, as a whole, are not losing money. They're making money hand over fist, mostly because of personal computers, though the internet helps. The cost of design has dropped incredibly, since you don't have to dick around with actually setting type anymore, and having laptops has cut office expenses hugely. The last figures I read, from a class two years ago on American print media, was that newspapers were averaging about 25% greater profit than they had ten years prior.
The dissonance between the reality of newspapers and the media image is caused, from what I can see, by two things— declining circulation and layoffs. The layoffs have come from the massive reduction in necessary job force that has been an effect of the computer in publishing. It's bad for people like me, who might otherwise have found a long-term job at a daily, and it looks ugly, but it doesn't actually portend a failing industry. The declining circulation is cited left and right, but if you look at who's publishing, the decline has come from the death of the afternoon paper. While that can be blamed on the internet, it's more rightly blamed on evening news television and a movement away from public transit. There's no need to read in your own car.

But newspapers still deliver better ad penetration for general interest campaigns than anything the internet can. Homes are still advertised through newspapers because newspapers are where people look for homes, but the most important advertisers are the grocery stores. Online coupons don't get the level of penetration that newspaper ads do, and polls have listed newspaper advertisements as both the least resented and the most remembered. Grocery circulars count on that, and make a fucking killing by advertising on cheap, well-read and circulated newsprint. They've also totally failed so far on the internet.

And yeah, the internet has managed to kill a lot of things, or accelerate their demise, like general interest magazines, and even a lot of niche mags, but that's a growing area too. With something like 1000 new magazines every year, most catering to a totally retarded micro-hobby (my favorite example is the Flying Funeral Director, for morticians who own planes, though I don't believe it's still publishing).

But the bold cries of print death and general New Media talking points given by bonaldi aren't accurate, at least in America. The internet is forcing newspapers to change drastically, and there have been negative repurcussions (a lot of what made really expensive investigative reporting possible was the nobless oblige of newspaper magnates who were willing to lose money for the prestige of owning a paper— now, just as in book publishing, most newspapers have been bought by conglomerates who expect a profit). Just don't necessarily lose the nuance because bonaldi's in high dudgeon.
posted by klangklangston at 10:48 PM on October 29, 2006


As for the main article, it's rather hilarious crap. "Someone else is on the internet being naughty! That ruins it for everyone!" A quoted source for that article spouts off more here about how Web 2.0 is Marxist
posted by klangklangston at 10:50 PM on October 29, 2006


I'm not talking specifically about the US klang, no, but what happens in our market generally makes it over to you. The US paper market is behind because it has way less competition and in some cities effective monopolies which insulate it somewhat.

And newspapers, as a whole, are not losing money. They're making money hand over fist, mostly because of personal computers, though the internet helps.
Your figures are from a class two years ago? Mine are from two days ago, and the circulations are on ABC right now. Even if papers remain in profit this or next year, the projections don't support that for the coming years.

The layoffs have come from the massive reduction in necessary job force that has been an effect of the computer in publishing.
This notion that the savings and layoffs come from computerisation is even more out of date. Most papers went tech in the late 1980s. Those savings are made. The only "effect of the computer" currently being felt in real publishing is in digital integration of newsrooms with internet sites.

The round of cuts we saw this and last year came purely from making people work harder. The losses weren't in hot metal men, or camera room operators, they were in editors and reporters. You don't need fewer of them because you have a Mac.

(The one thing that is doing OK here is afternoon papers: three have been launched in the past six months, mostly as oh-shit-what-now? measures, tbh)

Homes are still advertised through newspapers because newspapers are where people look for homes
Well there's a circular argument. Increasingly, people are using websites to look for homes. rightmove.co.uk just floated for a relatively large sum, on the back of a huge surge in popularity.

You've got exactly the same flaw with the "better ad penetration" line: that's only true while the papers have big readerships. As that goes down, it won't be true, and can't be used to prop up newspapers.

Are coupons really that big there? Big enough to support papers? The advantages surely aren't that much over direct mail. (They're not a factor in the UK, so I can't comment).

Upshot: nothing you've said shows how the business model remains valid. Even if the NYT did just get its first mac, you can't sack staff forever. All the ads you've mentioned are dependent on readers, and those readers are increasingly using the internet. Newspapers may not be all about to die, but the money is running out and with it, time.
posted by bonaldi at 4:36 AM on October 30, 2006


"Your figures are from a class two years ago? Mine are from two days ago, and the circulations are on ABC right now. Even if papers remain in profit this or next year, the projections don't support that for the coming years."

The biggest danger to US profit margins isn't the internet, it's paper prices. That's the one consistent rising cost that's really squeezing margins.

"This notion that the savings and layoffs come from computerisation is even more out of date. Most papers went tech in the late 1980s. Those savings are made. The only "effect of the computer" currently being felt in real publishing is in digital integration of newsrooms with internet sites."

Those savings are largely made, but unless the UK went totally digital well before we did, they've only just now finished. Our daily's production plant just went totally digital in the last year. The largest papers made gradual shifts through the '80s and '90s, but it's been the last ffive years that have seen US companies replacing presses and large-scale investments, which have led to production job costs.

"The round of cuts we saw this and last year came purely from making people work harder. The losses weren't in hot metal men, or camera room operators, they were in editors and reporters. You don't need fewer of them because you have a Mac."

Actually, this IS where the internet comes in. Reporters are better able to find stories and are assigned more efficiently due to the connectivity that the internet offers. Further, aside from some very small-market papers (who never really recovered from the drop in ads after 9/11), newspapers here haven't had the layoffs that yours seem to have had.

"(The one thing that is doing OK here is afternoon papers: three have been launched in the past six months, mostly as oh-shit-what-now? measures, tbh)"

Our afternoon papers are dead. The few that are surviving are mostly going to morning.

"Well there's a circular argument. Increasingly, people are using websites to look for homes. rightmove.co.uk just floated for a relatively large sum, on the back of a huge surge in popularity."

It's also true. While Craigslist has definitely changed the way people look for apartments, both houses and cars are easier to find through classifieds in newspapers.

"You've got exactly the same flaw with the "better ad penetration" line: that's only true while the papers have big readerships. As that goes down, it won't be true, and can't be used to prop up newspapers."

Except that morning circulation has gone up in the US. More people are reading morning papers. And people routinely rank newsprint as the least onerous form of advertising. So for most advertisers for things like appliances and car dealerships, it still makes sense to use newspapers.

"Are coupons really that big there? Big enough to support papers? The advantages surely aren't that much over direct mail. (They're not a factor in the UK, so I can't comment)."

Yeah, circulars are huge here. It's basically how all the grocery stores advertise their sales each week, and it both keeps people reading (avoiding the housewife stereotype, but that's really who they're aimed at), they bring in an assload of cash for newspapers. It's too prohibitively expensive to run direct mail for every coupon that'd you'd want to put out, and weekly sales just don't work as direct mail.
Fuck, one of the magazines that I work for makes nearly all of its money on handing out coupons on the street. They publish booklets of only coupons, and people love 'em (even though handing them out is about the worst job you can imagine). All of the things that we publish with content are really a sop to make the ad men more cash, but barely ever turn a profit.

In the US, people still want to read a daily morning newspaper. What're being hit hardest are alt-weeklies and events-listers, which are crushed by the internet and blogs. And the biggest threat to reporters is the increased reliance on conglomerate syndication services, where the same local content is farmed out to two or three related papers.
posted by klangklangston at 6:42 AM on October 30, 2006


Those savings are largely made, but unless the UK went totally digital well before we did, they've only just now finished. Our daily's production plant just went totally digital in the last year. The largest papers made gradual shifts through the '80s and '90s, but it's been the last ffive years that have seen US companies replacing presses and large-scale investments, which have led to production job costs.

That's probably true. The US industry is a lot slower-moving compared to the UK -- not because of any superiority, but because it makes sense for both sides: here it's so cut-throat that any advantage is leapt at. Most papers were fully-digital editorial by the turn of the 1990s -- my paper was coming out with Quark 1.12! -- and press rooms all by the turn of the millennium, at the very latest.

What this means, I think, it's that in the UK we're looking at the second wave of rationalisation: after the tech savings are reached. It's getting vicious too: at least five major titles are having strike ballots right now.

It's also true. While Craigslist has definitely changed the way people look for apartments, both houses and cars are easier to find through classifieds in newspapers.
Right now they are, but that's because the websites are remiss, not because newspapers are intrinsically better. When you can select an area on Google Earth and see every home for sale in that area that meets your criteria, the papers have had it. Same with cars: why scrawl through listings when you can let a web engine do it for you?

That's crazy about the coupons! It makes a lot of sense I suppose -- because we're so small, mailshots are far easier and more efficient, but I hadn't realised how much they impacted the bottom line.

And the biggest threat to reporters is the increased reliance on conglomerate syndication services, where the same local content is farmed out to two or three related papers.
This is absolutely right. It's not just a threat to reporters -- it's a threat to the country, if that isn't absurdly grandiloquent. The democratic oversight part of the news gets overlooked; and the agencies are killing it quietly.
posted by bonaldi at 8:10 AM on October 30, 2006



The B&N of sex shops will arrive eventually, espresso bar and all, mark my words.

I think that's called Babeland.
posted by juliarothbort at 11:24 AM on October 30, 2006


« Older Mark E Smith reads the football results....  |  Did you know that the Vacation... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments