Newspapers: Vanishing faster than you think

Philip Meyer, author of The Vanishing Newspaper, in AJR:

“The town crier’s audience was limited to the number of people who could be assembled within the range of an unamplified human voice. Printing changed everything. It made the size of the audience theoretically limitless and, by the creation of multiple records, enabled more reliable preservation of knowledge.

The Internet wrecks the old newspaper business model in two ways. It moves information with zero variable cost, which means it has no barriers to growth, unlike a newspaper, which has to pay for paper, ink and transportation in direct proportion to the number of copies produced.

And the Internet’s entry costs are low. Anyone with a computer can become a publisher, as Matt Drudge demonstrated when he broke the Monica Lewinsky story in 1998 and countless bloggers have shown in the decade since. These cost advantages make it feasible to make a business out of highly specialized information, a trend that was under way well before the Internet.”

These are the basics, the givens, of the post-industrial knowledge economy:

  1. There is no mass audience.
  2. There is no barrier to publication.
  3. The cost of operating legacy organizations increases indefinitely as profit decreases indefinitely.
  4. There is nothing cyclical about this change.

Rinse, repeat, rethink.