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This week's Economist features an interesting article regarding big media's struggle to maintain ground in today's multi-media environment. "Any media business has two products to sell: its content (to readers and viewers); and its audience (to advertisers). The task for old media is first to protect its advertising revenues by amassing audiences online and, second,…

Big Media Blues

This week's Economist features an interesting article regarding big media's struggle to maintain ground in today's multi-media environment. "Any media business has two products to sell: its content (to readers and viewers); and its audience (to advertisers). The task for old media is first to protect its advertising revenues by amassing audiences online and, second, to offset their viewers' intolerance of mass-advertising by making them pay more for content—which they are increasingly willing to do."

Posted by Joel Schettler on January 19 2006 • Journalism

Paper Tigers?

The daily press is becoming antiquated, writes Newsday reporter Justin Davidson. For those who follow the media, this isn't news (pardon the pun). Newspapers are searching for relevancy in an online world. While everyone believes the media will change soon, just what that future will look like is still in question.

"It's hard to avoid eulogies for the news industry, or the Orwellian scenarios in which propaganda and entertainment all but obliterate information," writes Davidson. "Some envision a future in which news will slip effortlessly into cyberspace, with professionals working alongside amateur citizen-journalists. A few expect technological salvation to come in the form of a roll-up plastic computer screen that could be read on the beach or in the bathroom. What virtually all industry-watchers agree on is that the news business needs a radical renovation."

The data are alarming. Joseph Epstein writes in the current Commentary about some of the domographic realities daily newspapers face today as they struggle to survive. "Four-fifths of Americans once read newspapers; today, apparently fewer than half do. Among adults, in the decade 1990-2000, daily readership fell from 52.6 percent to 37.5 percent," he writes. Among those between ages 18 and 34, the future for the media, only 19 percent consulted a daily newspaper. "From 1999 to 2004, according to the Newspaper Association of America, general circulation dropped by another 1.3 million."

Posted by Joel Schettler on January 11 2006 • Journalism

The Most Dangerous Idea

This year The Edge asked 119 notable scientists a single question: What is your most dangerous idea? There are some big names here: Steven Pinker, Jared Diamond, and Richard Dawkins among them. According to reporters who have already read through most of the entries, the responses show that many scientists believe studies of evolution will continue to develop and reach into new areas.

John Brock, editor and publisher of The Edge: "A realistic biology of the mind, advances in evolutionary biology, physics, information technology, genetics, neurobiology, psychology, engineering, the chemistry of materials: all are questions of critical importance with respect to what it means to be human. For the first time, we have the tools and the will to undertake the scientific study of human nature."

Just a sample from Howard Gardner, Harvard psychologist: "Hope for human survival and progress rests on two assumptions: (1) Human constructive tendencies can counter human destructive tendencies, and (2) Human beings can act on the basis of long-term considerations, rather than merely short-term needs and desires. My personal optimism, and my years of research on "good work", could not be sustained without these assumptions. Yet I lay awake at night with the dangerous thought that pessimists may be right. For the first time in history — as far as we know! — we humans live in a world that we could completely destroy." These are truly thought-provoking ideas, to say the very least.

Posted by Joel Schettler on January 05 2006 • Current Affairs

Answering Back to the Media

"Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel," goes the saying. Well, never pick a fight with someone who operates a popular blog either. New York Times reporter Katharine Seeyle writes that sources who feel slighted in news stories are using their Web sites to do more than simply point out errors or clarify a point.

"Subjects of newspaper articles and news broadcasts now fight back with the same methods reporters use to generate articles and broadcasts - taping interviews, gathering e-mail exchanges, taking notes on phone conversations - and publish them on their own Web sites. This new weapon in the media wars is shifting the center of gravity in the way that news is gathered and presented, and it carries implications for the future of journalism."

Posted by Joel Schettler on January 02 2006 • Journalism