Is newsprint obsolete?. "Is newsprint obsolete?" asks Tantek Çelik who explains why he has given up on the Wall Street Journal print edition:... [Padawan.info]
Francois reacts to a post by Tantek Çelik about the challenge posed to print newspapers by weblogs, which raised a few other comments.
This is something I've pondered over the past few months. I noticed that my print newspaper consumption took a hit after I started getting most of my news from my RSS reader. I still read Liberation, a french newspaper not as self-important, pontificating, and more importantly not involved in a scandal, as "Le Monde", almost everyday. I buy it because I read it in a cafe, and don't want to have to print the relevant parts from the web site. Also I read a single newspaper because it gives me a point of view about the news, and a style that I like. It acts as a filter. As Francois points out, this could all be replaced in the future by collaborative filtering of online news by good writers... but how will they make any money ?
For technology news, it's true that my sources are now mainly in weblogs... although I still read french's main "boring IT Newspaper" every week in order to get an idea of what the french IT press talks about (it's not that useless :-)
I had a long discussion about weblogs and journalism with one of my friend in California, a journalist who works for "a national news magazine" in the US. I was urging her to start her own weblog, to narrate her work, publish advanced data about the story she researches, get access to sources for the stories, and then after the story is published, get feedback about it. She had a very good argument against it: when she researches a story she does not want journalists at other newsmagazines to get a hint about it and steal the story from her. This is a very competitive space where ideas are their only assets. Not unlike the research community, where Sébastien Paquet found competition to be one of the reasons
"why many researchers are unlikely to adopt this technology in the short term" in his excellent essay Personal knowledge publishing and its uses in research.
Frankly I did not know what to tell her. Cory Doctorow's Bitchun' World: P2P Gone Wild with his test of publishing his science fiction book in a paper version (8500) and offer it for download at the same time (75 000 downloads) using the Creative Commons license may offer a glimpse of potential ways to make still money in publishing while using the Net as a delivery mechanism, but I'm still doubtful about the result.
So will weblogs kill the newsprint ? not in the short term, because good journalists are paid by newsprint papers and magazines, and a system must be found to pay for the content.
I have dropped the Wall Street Journal myself after I came back from the US, not because of weblogs, but because the dot com bust made it boring to read: when I was in California working for Netscape, I used to read it every morning and found it excellent, because it read like the local paper: most companies mentioned were in a 50 miles radius from Mountain View. After the "New economy" collapsed, the articles begun to talk more about New York City banks, which I found not as interesting :-)