Over at BoingBoing, Clay Shirky engages in a bit of self-congratulatory schadenfreude for predicting the collapse of the newspaper business model back in 1993. And no doubt: He was prescient. But like a lot of folks (many of them named Jeff Jarvis) who write these posts, there's an odd lament laced through the triumphalism: If only they'd listened.
What's never quite explained is what would have happened had everyone treated lay Shirky's utterances like aural treasure. Because I believe in Shirky's original analysis. "The price of information has not only gone into free fall in the last few years, it is still in free fall now, it will continue to fall long before it hits bottom, and when it does whole categories of currently lucrative businesses will be either transfigured unrecognizably or completely wiped out, and there is nothing anyone can do about it," he wrote. And he was right then. There was nothing anyone could do about it. More content aggregation and web chats and transparency would not have altered the fundamental force ripping apart the industry. Newspapers were built on local advertising monopolies. The internet deprived them of those monopolies. Less important than an individual's ability to access the BBC's news feed was his ability to access Craigslist's classifieds. In the internet age, midsize newspapers are an inefficiency. And they are being eliminated.
Jarvis had no answer for this, and nor, so far as I know, does Shirky...
Jan 3, 2009
Ad delivery system failure
Ezra Klein at the American Prospect gets tired of seeing "I told you so" listed as a qualification for curing what ails the newspaper industry: