On Monday, I blogged about the growing ebook war between Sony and Amazon and their respective portable reading devices. While the two continue to try to one up the other, another war is being fought on the media front that will impact the other dramatically in the years ahead.
I’m speaking of the vanishing newspaper market. In my own city of Denver, we’ve lost a newspaper (The Rocky Mountain News) and more nationwide will close as revenues will be harder and harder to get. I speak from somewhat of an informed perspective as I spent nearly 15 years in broadcast media working for radio stations in the midwest. Prior to that, my amateur work was in newspaper writing which began with my work on our high school’s newspaper. I learned the early basics of true “cut and paste” as we used X-acto knives to cut up our columns and “wax” them for post up on boards that would eventually become the school newspaper. I later learned how to use computer tools to do the same thing with perfect alignment and no mess.
Technology in the media arena is changing rapidly. I saw it begin to happen in 2000 as more and more newspapers went online with their product. It was an attempt to compete with the broadcast outlets that offered immediacy in breaking news. It was another way to “get the scoop” so to speak.
But now, that technology is forcing many in the business to shut down their print runs altogether. Some papers, like the Rocky Mountain News, will try to reinvent themselves as the former Rocky staff tries to launch an online product, “InDenver Times.com” to replace the print newspaper. Others will simply shut down due to lack of funds, while a few will try to consolidate their product with other papers in an effort to save at least some of the jobs in the newsroom.
Personally, I’ve never paid for a newspaper subscription. Working in radio, I didn’t need to. And now, even though I’m in ministry, I can get the news electronically from several different sources. This attitude, coupled with a growing adult population that’s internet friendly have caused the “regulars”, the newspaper reader who goes to his front lawn to pick up his paper each morning, to gradually dwindle as they get older.
In my commentary Monday, I mentioned the fact that Sony is more “open source” friendly than Amazon’s Kindle. While the Kindle hints at what is to come in the news business, subscriptions for newspapers can be purchased for it, that benefit (or alleged benefit) will not help the newspapers. Only when the latest editions can be downloaded freely without proprietary locks on them will we see an influx of growth for the news publishing industry. Magazines will have this problem as well. Take a look at the magazine racks at your local bookstore and take note of how much smaller they are getting. Online versions of these magazines will have to available in open source format in order for their writers to make a living.
Just because something is open source doesn’t mean it has to be free. I don’t mind paying for content that I can freely use after purchasing it. I DO mind paying an unreasonable price for a work and then, have to deal with the proprietary locks that come with it afterwards. I’ve purchased and reviewed ebooks here that I’ve bought for as little as $5, a bargain by today’s standard. As media moves to an eletronic delivery system, costs will come down greatly and so should their price. How will it all pan out in the years ahead?
That’s the subject of a future post! 😉