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Are newspapers really going to die?

By March 14, 2009websites

Many people are wondering about the fate of newspapers.  How will they survive?  This is an important question, and many people want to find a way to save the newspapers. Clay Shirky has poignant observations about why newspapers are in trouble, and why they simply can't survive.  

Clay Shirky, in case you don't know him, is wicked smart and relentlessly observant.  So if you want to maintain a glimmer of hope that newspapers will somehow make it, please don't read his essay. On the other hand, if you have strong powers of denial then go right ahead.

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  • Ray Ward says:

    Reminds me of an old Christian metaphor: pouring new wine into old wineskins. It didn’t work 2,000 years ago; still doesn’t work today.

  • Brett Owens says:

    Great observations, thanks for posting.

    Also heard an interesting mention of newspapers’ future on This Week in Tech a few weeks back – I dug up the transcript – Cory Doctorow mentions the situation in Neal Stephenson’s fantastic Sci Fi novel The Diamond Age:

    Cory Doctorow: But will never die and the other one is poetry which is really cheap and there is more of it being written than ever before and its an entirely noneconomic proposition, and I think – I can imagine either a newspaper like in The Diamond Age, that Neal Stephenson novel, that is printed on rag paper and ironed by butlers and delivered to rich weirdos or a future like poetry which is what newspapers are looking like now where there is probably more news and opinion being written than ever before and being read by a wider audience, but almost entirely as a noneconomic activity.

  • Ernie, thanks so much for bringing this article to our attention. I saw your twittered recommendation about it over the weekend, read it immediately, and retweeted and forwarded it to clients and colleagues.

    I think Shirky’s observations about the newspaper industry are brilliant. But I also think they apply far beyond that particular industry — to our own legal services industry. Our industry is dealing with massive changes right now re labor pools, client-buyer power shifts, cost-management crises, reputation and brand management, etc. However, there are also many new opportunities for lawyers, law firms, and legal vendors exposed by these changes, as well as the opportunities created by Web 2.0, massive regulatory changes, and many client industry changes.

    I differ from most of the blogsophere in that I don’t believe for one second that large law firms are nearly as impotent or stupid as most of the blogosphere seems to assume they are. Firms of all sizes, operating at all tiers of service, will seek and find new ways to serve clients.

    I’m currently writing some scenarios for a law firm scenario planning exercise and can foresee multiple possible futures for our industry, none of which are certain. Some of those futures favor smaller, newer firms and upstarts, and others favor large law firms. This act is just beginning, and anyone who assumes they know how the play will end isn’t playing many moves ahead. Good players learn from their opponents’ moves and reserve the right to change their strategies, sometimes in quite jujitsu ways.

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