Gradually... then suddenly

The silence at the demise of the Seattle PI - one of only 2 major dailies in this area - was deafening. Yes there were a few blog posts with "I told you so" or "bloggers are the new reporters" garbage. Yes there was that persistent refrain about Seattle being a "one newspaper town" on the way to a "no newspaper town". The media loves to talk about itself; but never in any breadth or depth that truly matters. Stop this cliched garbage, please. How about something a little more substantive - even analytical perhaps?

Tren Griffin - one of the characters that makes Microsoft such a great place to work - says that newspapers are doomed because news content is non-rival and non-excludable. He is right. The newspapers dug a good portion of their grave by conditioning us all into getting stuff for free; and deluding themselves that they can have high operating incomes from online ad sales. Craigslist and Google also played small parts in shovel duty.

But what about blogs? Did they play a role in killing newspapers? I don't think so. Bloggers with their large egos may choose to believe this. But they're kidding no one when they claim people get their news from blogs. That's like saying I get all my oxygen on my commutes from the car a/c. Please.

Regardless, now an institution that fosters transparency and further accountability is dying. The big fish will find a way to cobble together alliances, get investors to suspend disbelief and survive for some more time. Its the local rag that is toast. Sucks for us. No more oversight on our local officials, teachers, law breakers and enforcers.

But there are other consequences too. I'm curious how the public relations industry adjusts to this. Lefsetz gets what few recognize:

[there is a] SEA CHANGE in publicity/image-making. In other words, you can no longer spin the public. You can have friends in the press, but didn’t you hear that newspapers are dying?

So you have to ask yourself what you’re selling, and focus on THAT!

I don't think we've quite grasped what changes are in store for us. Having the luxury of newspapers for a century has conditioned us into not thinking of what its like to have a world without them. To paraphrase Hemingway, the demise of newspapers happened gradually... then suddenly.