I was listening to a recent edition of the Backstory podcast, and a comment about the history of financial crises made me think about the current economic crisis and the travails and possible demise of newspapers. In the 1800s and nearly until 2000, newspapers were the main way that people communicated current and changing data effectively. Lists of commodities prices, sports scores and standings, stock prices, movie times, weather forecasts — they all made the newspaper a daily necessity.
Then, data picked up and moved online. Weather forecasts? Online. Stock prices? Online. Movie times? Online. Sports scores? iPhone.
So now newspapers are beginning to plan for less-than-daily publication in order to cut costs and endure a little longer. But the die is cast, and not just because the newspapers have lost the “news” part of their image, by and large. It’s also because they lost daily relevance when they stopped being the quickest way to access dynamic data.
To me, this is a hidden source of disruption for newspapers. Once they lost the daily reason for delivery and consumption — a habit largely supported by data tables — their fates were sealed.
What hidden, indispensable dimension of scholarly publishing could be disrupted? I think it’s reputation. When it becomes equally reputable or even more reputable to be published online as it is to be published in print, watch out!