time_magazineTime Magazine proudly boasts this month’s cover story by Walter Isaacson called “How to Save Your Newspaper”.

The irony of the story is that it highlights exactly why print media is failing in the first place. Isaacson proposes an “iTunes” like model whenever you want to download and read an article. Just imagine the fun you’ll have saving your Time Magazine article to your iNews and pulling it up and reading it over and over. Oh the fun to be had.

It seems almost cliche when you say the print media’s inability to adapt to the changing media climate is the reason they’re failing in the first place. It seems even more cliche when those very same entities publish pieces like this one from Isaacson.

During the past few months, the crisis in journalism has reached meltdown proportions. It is now possible to contemplate a time when some major cities will no longer have a newspaper and when magazines and network-news operations will employ no more than a handful of reporters.

Oh my God, we’re in the middle of a recession, quick, everybody panic! Have we really gotten to the point that even journalists are fear mongering post-apocalyptic like scenarios where we are forced to imagine life “in some major cities” with no newspapers? Nooooo!

There is, however, a striking and somewhat odd fact about this crisis. Newspapers have more readers than ever. Their content, as well as that of news magazines and other producers of traditional journalism, is more popular than ever — even (in fact, especially) among young people.

The problem is that fewer of these consumers are paying. Instead, news organizations are merrily giving away their news. According to a Pew Research Center study, a tipping point occurred last year: more people in the U.S. got their news online for free than paid for it by buying newspapers and magazines. Who can blame them? Even an old print junkie like me has quit subscribing to the New York Times, because if it doesn’t see fit to charge for its content, I’d feel like a fool paying for it.

OK, a couple of things here. First, blaming online media for the failure of print media is like opening up a lemonade stand that sells lemons and a juicer and then being pissed off at the lemonade stand down the street that’s making money hand over fist selling actual lemonade.

Second, get your facts straight Mr. Isaacson. You say, “Even an old print junkie like me has quit subscribing to the New York Times, because if it doesn’t see fit to charge for its content, I’d feel like a fool paying for it.”

Well I can’t argue with the fool part, but maybe you’ve heard of a little failed experiment called Times Select. It was the New York Times’ attempt to do exactly what you’re talking about and guess what? It was their attempt to pimp out Maureen Dowd and some of its other high profile columnists and wall them off behind a paid subscription format. It failed miserably. You can still see the result here.


Or how about the environmental impact your magazine has on the planet? Has that been addressed? Last I checked Time Magazine uses approximately zero percent recycled paper to publish it’s magazine. That’s a stunning fact considering the American people’s stance on environmental issues.

A new nationwide poll released recently shows that more than four in 10 of all Americans, and an even larger percentage of committed voters — 44 percent of those who say they are absolutely certain to vote in the upcoming presidential election — agree that if action is not taken to address global warming and climate change, the country’s national security will be threatened by global instability. Almost two-thirds, 62 percent, of all U.S. adults believe it is important that the next President of the United States initiates strong action to address climate change soon after taking office.

You see, your error in judgment lies in the fact that you cannot even intelligently defend your position because you cannot definitively even point to one single cause of print media’s demise.

Well, there is one common factor. There is no doubt that print media may at some point cease to exist. Not as a result of the blasphemous idea of “giving” content away online of course, but because, and I say this with all due respect, out of touch dinosaurs like yourself Mr. Isaacson continue to foolhardily trumpet the same, tired headline over and over.

Why not go back to the original print media and have scriveners transcribing all of our newspapers, or go back to using Gutenberg’s Press? Because, as simple as it sounds, those methods are outdated. Newer, more efficient and more effective advances were made.

My dear Mr. Isaacson, as much as I admire and respect the print legends that helped cement newspapers and magazines as mainstays during the 20th Century, I must warn you, the web is not yours to partition off and dole out as you see fit for whatever price you see fit. The heady days of the lumbering behemoth newsrooms are behind us.

Hopefully the magazine that used your article as their cover story is smart enough to not actually follow your ill-fated advice. Or they just might see their online presence following closely behind their print predecessor.

Oh, and just in case you missed the original link, you can read Isaacson’s piece in its entirety here for free.

Posted by James Poling

A socialist, tinkerer, thinker, question asker and all around curiosity seeker. If you'd like to reach me you can use the contact link above or email me at jamespoling [at] gmail [dot] com.

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