Monday, April 17, 2006


Mything the Point of "Angry Liberal Bloggers"

I see everyone is bouncing around because someone at the Post did a hatchet job on liberal bloggers. Hey, if newspaper editorial boards weren't worried about blogs, they would be idiots. Let's take a look at the topic a little more closely.

Poking fun at outrage to diminish the message. That's funny. You want a real laugh?  Do I really need to remind folks that the same Washington Post going after "angry left" bloggers only a couple weeks ago hired an "angry plagiarist"? There‚Äôs a reason newspapers are going to dump on bloggers, left, right or center. Let me walk you through their nightmare.

Newspaper circulation is in decline.
They are getting hit in the shorts because readership is declining.  You think this is a joke, consider this:

Number Newspaper Employees 1980:  ~402K
Number of USA Employees in 1980:  ~90 M
Number Newspaper Employees 2003:  ~381K
Number of USA Employees in 2003:  ~130M

There are a lot more people in the labor force today than 25 years ago, but actually fewer people working in newspapers.  Why?  Because papers have folded all across the country in the last 25 years.

In 1980 there were about 62 Million papers sold a day.
In 2003 there were about 55 Million papers sold a day.
So where are all the eyeballs going?

Online. Over 47.3 million people visited online newspapers last September. That represents 31.9 percent of all (US?) Internet users, up 15.8 percent from the same period a year prior.

Now... here's the problem for the infotainment industry.  If more and more of your readers are going online to get your content, they are only a click away from someone else.  This is the reason Online Shopping Malls (remember them from the 1990s?) never worked.  It's the difference between real world and virtual traffic.

In the real world, if you go to a mall, you have to drive across town, park the car and schlep into the store with kids in tow.... maybe they have what you want...maybe they don't.  But close is good enough because you will be damned if you are going to go back to the car and drive across town and repeat this whole drama in some other mall.  Online, it's different.  I don't need no parking validation and if you don't feed me in 15 seconds, I'm out.  

The same thing applies with papers.  How many papers are you going to buy on the way to work? One.  Online..where they are free (except for the WSJ) you can pick and choose based on the content you are interested in.  Google is your friend. Who cares if you are reading one story from the Post, another from the NY Times, and a third from Ha'aretz? Not you... but the folks who pay for full page ads sure as hell do. In other words, someone is eating the newspaper's lunch money and they know that it is only going to get worse.

That's strike one.

There's another problem.  Internet users have only so much time to browse.  The average user probably visits 3 sites for news.  80% of all searching is done at Yahoo, Google, and MSN...guess where they are going for their news?

That's strike two.

RSS has really changed things in the news arena. Why? Because of two things.  First, you can now create your own newsfeed, further fragmenting the sources of information. Actually, it is a new twist on an old concept... clipping services. Only it has a new twist. When you use RSS do you really care where the feed originates? No.  Do the content providers? Hell yeah.  But they have to give it away and lose the hook. Why? Because RSS users visit an average of 10 sites for news!  Brand loyalty is dead.

That's strike three.

So to sum up:
readership is declining.
readers are trading ink on paper for pixels on screens.
readers are aggregating their own content.

Now let's add insult to injury.  The people at the Washington Post deriding the bloggers are the same chucklehaids who thought "Digital Ink" would rock the world... ok that was a cheap shot. But it's true. I made a lot of money betting against them on that one.

Here's the gift that keeps on giving: The news cycle has changed.  Cable news turned it into a 24 hour cycle..and that helped kill the evening editions.  But there was still a cycle that could be pegged to a given day.  The net turned it into a constant stream. It's not even a cycle now.  The newsgroup was created WHILE OJ was fleeing the police!  The president isn't even through his SOTU and people are calling him out on all the facts that are wrong.  Newspapers can try and keep up, but they have to pay people to do what millions of people are doing for free.  That sucks.

And here's the worst part.  As Wikipedia and USENET demonstrate... the marketplace of information is about credibility not credentials.  The quickest way to get the right answer is to post the wrong answer.  Look at how far ahead of the curve net users were on Iraq.  Because we are psychic? No. Because we have millions of eyes looking at the data and way this is a good idea.

So, papers can't compete on price.  They can't compete on timeliness.  Now they are having trouble competing on accuracy.  Analysis is a joke.... so what's left? Shock value?  Infotainment?  Trust me, you don't want to try and compete in those areas ... you doubt it go to Google, and turn your SafeSearch Filtering off.  The boys in the newspapers know all about that. As far as they're concerned, it brings a whole new meaning to "screwed." Any other representation of the new media reality is just mything the point.

Mything the Point © :
"Examining unexamined beliefs America accepts on faith value."

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