Newspapers — adapt or die

by Mathew on December 13, 2005

As a newspaper guy — although one who is trying his best to get with the Web 2.0 program — I have a close personal interest in what the industry is going through right now, thanks to a combination of its own inaction and arrogance, combined with a tidal wave of blogs and and podcasts and so on. Finding intelligent comment about and analysis of what is going on is a real treat, and as always Jeff Jarvis’s is one of the places I often go.

Jeff pointed me to what I thought was an interesting post by Peter Rip, a managing partner at Leapfrog Ventures, who writes a blog about the venture capital business and technology. Peter used to work at Knight-Ridder on the technology side, and in his post he says newspapers are like mainframes used to be in the 1980s when the personal computer was transforming the world.

It makes sense. Newspapers are large and expensive and centralized and dominant (okay, not so dominant), and require specialized tools and skills (okay, not so specialized). And they are being threatened by a phenomenon that consists of “small pieces, loosely joined” – blogs and social bookmarking sites and ad hoc news networks and so on, who are “unbundling” the pieces that make up a newspaper, whether it’s classifieds or stock listings or news stories themselves (or the columnists, for that matter).

An interesting perspective — and a warning. Some, such as the Toronto Star’s David Olive, see this transformation as having a potential upside as well — provided newspapers handle it properly. And Scott Rosenberg at Salon has some thoughts too. And just to come full circle, I’ll let Mr. Jarvis have the last word.

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