Seth Godin recently published a post on a topic that has been examined ad nauseum — the seemingly inevitable (but certainly prolonged) death of newspapers. Yet, as usual, he has a perspective that resonates more clearly than some others, and he misses on major point.
Seth believes that the functions of a newspaper that aren’t already redundant or dead (sports, weather, classifieds, movie reviews, television listings, comics) are local and investigative journalism. He estimates that these functions account for 2% of the cost of a newspaper.
His belief is that these will somehow survive as a function, but funded differently:
Punchline: if we really care about the investigation and the analysis, we’ll pay for it one way or another. Maybe it’s a public good, a non profit function. Maybe a philanthropist puts up money for prizes. Maybe the Woodward and Bernstein of 2017 make so much money from breaking a story that it leads to a whole new generation of journalists.
What I think Seth has missed is that these functions are already redundant, too, through blogs and Twitter and Facebook and email and cell phones and digital cameras. Already, local news becomes national and international and vice-versa, nearly instantaneously. From amazing water landings of airplanes (and the resume of the pilot) to recordings of meetings to videos of exorcisms to actual receipts, minutes, and documents, all digitally available, citizen journalists and professional (and semi-pro) journalists are doing plenty.
Investigative journalism is thriving because of blogs, with first-hand accounts of meetings, niche investigations, and expert insights emerging right and left.
Is it any wonder that all the journalists covering the Inauguration seem to be at the Newseum?
So, if I were a newspaper owner, I’d be planning for the inevitable.
There’s really nothing left.