Sunday, March 15, 2009

'Thinking the unthinkable'

I've been on the road for a while and I'm late pointing to this important piece by Clay Shirky. If you care at all about journalism or newspapers, you need to read it.

Here are a few key points:

With the old economics destroyed, organizational forms perfected for industrial production have to be replaced with structures optimized for digital data. It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem...

... The newspaper people often note that newspapers benefit society as a whole. This is true, but irrelevant to the problem at hand; “You’re gonna miss us when we’re gone!” has never been much of a business model...

... Any experiment ... designed to provide new models for journalism is going to be an improvement over hiding from [reality], especially in a year when, for many papers, the unthinkable future is already in the past.


  1. I read the original a few days ago and I found it thought provoking and fascinating.

    But at the end I was left wondering, "ok, and?"

    I mean the entire piece could have been summed up as "newspapers are screwed" and left at that. But we knew that! All but the most dense have figured that out by now.

    Don't tell me it's raining, I got that. Give me the forecast. That's what good journalists are supposed to do.

  2. Anonymous9:02 PM

    There are some other things to consider about the demise of our newspaper industry. I've been involved in newspapers for 40+ years.
    02/27/2009 -
    The Planned Collapse of the Newspaper Industry
    Any thumbs up, or down, comments are appreciated.
    Edward Ulysses Cate

  3. Wow. That's a great piece. Thanks for pointing to it. I saw the founder of Facebook on an interview when I went home. He's a great example of an experiment turned media-titan-billionaire at age 24 with a community of 175 million. It's mind blowing and I love Clay's point that in times like this, outcomes are mostly impossible to predict. Not a good situation for mostly business people with cause and effect experience and a lot to lose, but it's a great paradigm for people who just have a cause and don't entirely care about the effect.


  4. Anonymous1:02 PM

    On the road? I'd like to see you on the road, like under the wheels of bus, and not the short one you rode to school, a big honkin' bus filled with the people whose careers YOU destroyed.