Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Newspaper Deflation: Thinking the Unthinkable

It's quite possible the newspaper industry will deflate until all that are left are highly niche ad other novelty papers. Even a few years ago, the conventional wisdom had the newspaper industry going through a massive contraction and leaving only a few players (e.g., the New York Times) standing.

How the conventional wisdom has changed. I'd say the conventional wisdom is that newspapers survive only as loss-leaders (e.g., the Wall Street Journal) or as foundations.

In an interesting article, Clay Shirky argues that newspapers are simply not willing to face this reality:

"When reality is labeled unthinkable, it creates a kind of sickness in an industry. Leadership becomes faith-based, while employees who have the temerity to suggest that what seems to be happening is in fact happening are herded into Innovation Departments, where they can be ignored en masse. This shunting aside of the realists in favor of the fabulists has different effects on different industries at different times. One of the effects on the newspapers is that many of their most passionate defenders are unable, even now, to plan for a world in which the industry they knew is visibly going away."
Will anyone hear the last whimper?

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