O'Reilly on blogs/newspapers

I never got round to posting on the article in the Sunday Times that generated some comment in the Irish blogosphere. The money quote:

In an interview with The Sunday Times, the newspaper publisher dismissed the notion that the print industry was a “sunset industryâ€?.

“It is a sunrise industry,â€? said O’Reilly. “Newspapers are tactile, hugely cheap, reliable, go with a cup of coffee. You can trust newspaper writers. Can you trust a blogger?â€? O’Reilly said that the newspaper industry would also challenge the rise of the internet as an advertising medium. A whole range of goods would not be congenial to be advertised “on a PCâ€?, he said.

An interesting question to pose, certainly. But it is in stark contrast to the comments made by Rupert Murdoch back in April to the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

What is happening is, in short, a revolution in the way young people are accessing news. They don’t want to rely on the morning paper for their up-to-date information. They don’t want to rely on a god-like figure from above to tell them what’s important. And to carry the religion analogy a bit further, they certainly don’t want news presented as gospel.

Instead, they want their news on demand, when it works for them.

They want control over their media, instead of being controlled by it.

They want to question, to probe, to offer a different angle. Think about how blogs and message boards revealed that Kryptonite bicycle locks were vulnerable to a Bic pen. Or the Swiftboat incident. Or the swift departure of Dan Rather from CBS. One commentator, Jeff Jarvis, puts it this way: give the people control of media, they will use it. Don’t give people control of media, and you will lose them.

In the face of this revolution, however, we’ve been slow to react. We’ve sat by and watched while our newspapers have gradually lost circulation. We all know of great and expensive exceptions to this – but the technology is now moving much faster than in the past.

Where four out of every five americans in 1964 read a paper every day, today, only half do. Among just younger readers, the numbers are even worse, as I’ve just shown.

One writer, Philip Meyer, has even suggested in his book The Vanishing Newspaper that looking at today’s declining newspaper readership – and continuing that line, the last reader recycles the last printed paper in 2040 – April, 2040, to be exact

He continued:

Some newspapers will invest sufficient resources to continuously update the news, because digital natives don’t just check the news in the morning – they check it throughout the day. If my child played a little league baseball game in the morning, it would be great to be able to access the paper’s website in the afternoon to get a summary of her game, maybe even accompanied by video highlights.

But our internet site will have to do still more to be competitive. For some, it may have to become the place for conversation. The digital native doesn’t send a letter to the editor anymore. She goes online, and starts a blog. We need to be the destination for those bloggers. We need to encourage readers to think of the web as the place to go to engage our reporters and editors in more extended discussions about the way a particular story was reported or researched or presented.

At the same time, we may want to experiment with the concept of using bloggers to supplement our daily coverage of news on the net. There are of course inherent risks in this strategy — chief among them maintaining our standards for accuracy and reliability. Plainly, we can’t vouch for the quality of people who aren’t regularly employed by us – and bloggers could only add to the work done by our reporters, not replace them. But they may still serve a valuable purpose; broadening our coverage of the news; giving us new and fresh perspectives to issues; deepening our relationship to the communities we serve, so long as our readers understand the clear distinction between bloggers and our journalists.

I think Murdoch has it right to a large degree. O’Reilly seems to want to cling on to times past, to pretend the Internet was never invented, or rolling TV news channels. Blogging is even a side issue in this, the greater issue is will people still be buying newspapers in 20 years? I stopped buying a newspaper regularly years ago, I read the ones I like online now.

Mr. O’Reilly: The times, they are a changing.

1 thought on “O'Reilly on blogs/newspapers”

  1. According to the FT a few months ago, May, I think, Murdoch was inspired by a little film he saw to make his remarks. The film is about 8 or 9 minutes long and is a very clever fantasy of the future of the digital media. Anyway you can see the film on http://www.lightover.com/epic/ It is a very interesting take on the future you are discussing. Not that I am sure that I think it is totally accurate, which projection ito the future is, but it certainly makes you think. For those who are not New York Times fans or Microsoft fans there is the added attraction that it predicts the demise of both.

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