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March 2009 Archives

March 14, 2009

The news medium has a message: "Goodbye"

Every so often there's a story about about a technophobe executive so out of touch a secretary has to print out their email every morning so they can read it on paper and dictate replies.

That's what the print newspaper is, of course. Why on earth would you print all that stuff out? Over a hundred pages, most of which you're not going to read, with the crease down the middle of the front page photo, story jumps everywhere, a carbon-footprint disaster to produce, distribute and recycle. It's absurd.

Back in 1980 newspapers were the main way that bytes flowed into people's homes. Radio and TV for audio/video, but the newspaper delivered the bytes that were read like the text-based web.

I once worked out some rough back-of-napkin estimates on the number of text bytes in the paper. It was only delivered once during the day, but if you average the bytes across the entire 24 hour period it came out to be about the rate of a 300 baud modem. The newspaper was the internet.

It was mostly one way - except for all those classified ads and the letters to the editor. It was really a lot more like AOL, since it was centrally controlled and edited.

But it did represent the sole text byte pipe into the home. And so it contained every content vertical, all in one package. National news, world news, local community sections. Little league scores and the NFL. Weather, stock tables, TV listings, home sales. Advertising, both national, local and personal. Games and political commentary and the police blotter. Everything.

Fortified by the high cost of the printing press and the limited radius of delivery trucks there was a natural local monopoly to these things. And indeed, they were a wonderful business, a so-called license to print money. Huge fortunes were made.

That's all over now of course. The subsidy that classifieds supplied for bureaus in distant cities is gone. The class of professional reporters as we know them is going to be smaller and funded differently.

I was at the TechCrunch office welcoming party last night, and was struck by how unassuming the offices were. This was the big move up, of course. They were still unpacking after moving out of Mike Arrington's house. But it was a small office with a few desks scattered around, a handful of computers. I've toured the massive AP newsroom, rebuilt in 2004 to cater to every desire of a journalist. The Reuters newsroom had pods that look like they were inspired by Norad in Wargames, with circular banks of monitors around central stations, all showing live feeds or charts from various sources. The old Mercury News offices were vast.

TechCrunch was a modest affair by comparison. So this is where it all happens..., I thought. This is what the modern business press looks like now.

Get used to it.

About March 2009

This page contains all entries posted to Skrentablog in March 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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