Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Newspapers were first to the web party but forgot to invent it

It would be easy to accuse editors and publishers of being clueless about the coming Internet disruption and to insist that the industry's proper reward for decades of haughty attitude, bad planning, and incompetence is bankruptcy.
But newspapers have really, really tried to wrap their hands around the future and preserve their franchise.

That is according to Jack Shafer writing at Slate Magazine who identifies that whilst they realised its potential and its challenges,they made the mistake of moulding it to their own designs

He argues that, as with the advent of radio in the 1920's

The industry has understood from the advent of AM radio in the 1920s that technology would eventually be its undoing and has always behaved accordingly.
and his evidence goes back to the 1970's when

Newspapers and other media entities started experimenting with videotex technology according to David Carlson's Online Timeline. Newspapers considered themselves vulnerable to new entrants and worried aloud to anybody who would listen about falling readership

But there is one problem in all this and it is a valid point

From the beginning, newspapers sought to invent the Web in their own image by repurposing the copy, values, and temperament found in their ink-and-paper editions. Despite being early arrivals, despite having spent millions on manpower and hardware, despite all the animations, links, videos, databases, and other software tricks found on their sites, every newspaper Web site is instantly identifiable as a newspaper Web site. By succeeding, they failed to invent the Web.

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