Getting “media” right

My friend Ronn Levine with SIPA sent along this very interesting article. The tech/editorial culture clash

It’s a good article about the conflict between social media and news organizations, and it’s worth your time to read. But be careful about drawing the wrong conclusions.

What I’ve seen time and again with this sort of article is that people confuse “news” with “media,” or even with publishing in general, and as a result they get the wrong ideas about trends in publishing.

For example, consider this quote.

Every major news event in the world, from bombs raining down on Aleppo to the late night tweeting of presidential candidates, is broken through social media and seen through our luminous mobile phone screens.

That’s very true. People get their daily news from other sources these days, and often largely from social media.

But that’s news, which is only one part of the media, or of the publishing industry as a whole.

Most of the bellyaching about “the death of print” and the decline of “publishing” conflates and confuses these things.

Yes, news is in decline. When news was printed on paper, delivered by truck to newsstands and then by local kids on bikes to houses, there was a geographical limit to the reach of any given newspaper. As a result there was a market for lots of different papers in different cities.

That need doesn’t exist any more.

There’s simply no reason to have a Washington Post, a Chicago Tribune, an LA Times, plus 45 other localized newspapers — all covering basically the same stories. Most of them will have to fail in the modern environment, and the remaining few will have to consolidate.

But that’s an entirely different thing from Vogue, or Brew Your Own, or American Rifleman. Or, for that matter, Oil and Gas Daily or (dear to my heart) The FERC Practice and Procedure Manual.

National news is a horrible place to be right now. But local news and niche publishing are entirely different and live in another ecosystem.

The point is that structural changes to the publishing industry will affect different parts differently, so don’t buy into any rolled-up analysis that tries to explain everything from daily news to paperbacks.

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