There, but for the grace of god: A blog about a cartoon lampooning blogs on a news site whose business model revolves around blogging. This is what they must have meant about dittoheads.
Do I think the blogosphere (to speak of ancient memes) is squeezing out mainstream press for readers and ad dollars? Kinda. But the genre is not the same: Bloggers don’t soberly report the news. They comment on the news. It’s an infinite opinion piece. News and news analysis are two different things that, I believe, cannot be further apart. (Do ya hear me, MSNBC? Huh? Do ya?)
With that posit, bloggers may only be one third of what killed the newspaper model. First must be network and radio news, for presenting an alternative way for presenting the day’s happenstances to the public (and possible explanation as to why NYC, as the perennial American non-driver’s city and thus naturally resistant to morning commute AM radio, still has the most paper dailies), and second must be newspapers’ shift to accentuate news analysis and columns over the nitty gritty (which would explain so many regional dailies relying on feeds from the Associated Press – not unlike RSS – and having the only local-borne writing be from columnists for local flavor) or sheer entertainment (gossip columns, comic strips – and far be it from me not to point out that I’m linking just such a thing – and the like), at which point Web 2.0 sites, blogs among them, completely took over that secondary market.
The newspaper business model failed and there’s a lot of flailing around pointing fingers as to why.
It has superficial similarities to the music industry’s travails over the last decade: The MAFIAA (kudos for an eight year old meme spawned by Slashdot) may have railed and failed against music pirates, but what killed them was their abject inability to change their business model to a subscription method before major distributors went under.
The comparison to the news industry is only superficially similar in that the substantive difference is that the papers themselves are offering the information for free and the army of bloggers that link them are also creating new, perfectly legal content. However, it’s not an artistic endeavor, and not all content is created equal. After all, your average blogger can’t afford to keep a news desk in Beirut, and nor does s/he have any incentive to keep anything akin to journalistic integrity.
Then again, neither does Fox News.
The papers need a new economic model – one not based on the entertainment industry – and all the fingerpointing at RSS feeds, bloggers and twitters (heretofore labeled ‘twits’) will not change this. I would also suggest a subscription method, though it would have to be implemented wholesale by a guild of most major newspapers in order to be effective, else we’ll have to subsidize them as we do most other Public Goods.
Which isn’t the worst idea, really.
Hopefully they’ll figure out a workable solution before total disaster like music distributors suffered, and before reporting ends up being one of those archaic words suffused with unbreakable stigmas, like “project.” After all, nobody says they get their news straight from blogs, but people are already saying they get their news from satirical works like the Daily Show…