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Soon the news won’t fit the print

Another milestone is reached as channels of distribution change:

2008 will be seen as a landmark year in global communications in the textbooks of 2100 – it was the year that the internet finally surpassed what was once considered an unassailable bastion of main media, newspapers, as the leading source of national and international news in America. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press is an independent opinion research group that studies attitudes toward the press, politics and public policy issues. This year, for the first time in a Pew survey, more people said they relied mostly on the internet for news than those that cited newspapers (35%). Television retained top spot with 70% but it’s now clear that it’s when, rather than if, the internet will become the key news communications medium.

This is not as radical as headlined, given that newspaper and television websites are important sources for online information. Yet the march online will intensify as the credit crunch accelerates change. Curiously, this could result in less news, as the institutions of mainstream reporting wither away.

Watch for the state to support and protect the coterie of reporters, newspapers and channels on the grounds that politicians are far too important not to be heard. After all, this is already done in the UK with the licence fee, public sector advertisements for the Guardian and various subsidies. As the market retreats, subsidies will become more overt, expensive and extensive.

23 comments to Soon the news won’t fit the print

  • public sector advertisements for the Guardian and various subsidies

    Phillip, can you please elaborate?

  • Ian B

    Alisa, I think that ought to read “public sector advertisments in the Guardian”. The Guardian is the newspaper of the New Establishment. It doesn’t make a profit, but much of what money it does make comes from the government, councils, the BBC etc buying job advertisements in it.

  • Ian: thanks, that makes sense. What about the subsidies part?

  • Chris F

    Much as I like the convenience and immediacy of on-line news (news feeds from all all over the world with journos and bloggers being able to report events as they happen or unfold), I would sorely miss print media were it to disappear. For my daily dose of news I do go to the internet rather than buying a paper, but I think that there is a lot to be said for the permanence and unchangeable nature of print.

    I used to keep newspapers and magazines that I read as a form of permanent record. This is no longer possible for me now, but I do still keep weekly summaries like The Week and keep those instead. I have about four year’s worth and really miss the fact the Christian Science Monitor switched to daily years ago, otherwise I would have kept those also.

    What I love about keeping them is that once they are printed and distributed, they cannot be changed – news cannot be revised, quotes and opinions expressed are there for ever. With the internet, I read of stories being revised without mention, stories being taken down, sites being blocked. This worries me as I do believe that if you can control and change what was said in and about the past, you can influence the present and the future.

    If print media dies off as a way of reporting events or voicing opinions, then the only way around it will to print every news story that I am interested in and keeping that.

    I have to say that I would also miss the production value of some magazines should they stop being produced and go purely digital.

  • Ian B

    Alisa, I think he’s just referring to subsidies in general to the media.

    This post does actually give me a semi-excuse to mention something I’ve been thinking about. A few weeks ago, Johnathan (Pearce) wrote something in a comment that was less than his usual cheery self, to the effect that The Opposition have all the media and we don’t have anything, saying that e.g. in the US they have talk radio whereas here in blighty what have we got? A few blogs.

    That set me thinking about what Richard North has said over at EU Referendum a number of times that he’s disappointed to a degree in the blogosphere that it hasn’t really risen to the challenge (over here, anyway) of challenging the MSM. That it’s largely derivative, feeding off and commenting on news stories from the MSM. This I think is true. Posts here or at DK or wherever tend to be “it says in the Guardian this” or “according to the Telegraph that” and then a comment or rant about it.

    Well, in terms of strategy, if i had a bit of money, or could raise some (and I can’t do this, but surely there are some among us with a few more farthings and some media business nous) I would say that the key thing for us isn’t to challenge the MSM, so much as we must become it. And blogs, fine as they are, aren’t going to do that. Blogs are the writings of a single mind, or a few minds, comment pieces for the motivated reader. A libertarian blog will only in general attract the strongly politically interested, and that is a minority of the public. The MSM pump the statist message out because they are attracting general readers. People go there to read “the news”, to find out what has gone on in the world, often quite trivial stuff, and then absorb the statist message as it is an undercurrent of the MSM journalism.

    So I would envisage a news website, with a libertarian/freedomist bias. Think of the Telegraph site, or even the BBC site. It would employ journalists and actually go get its own news instead of relying on MSM stories, or amateurs. It would be professionally edited. It would have articles on the arts and gardening, fashion and technology, a cartoon or two, gossip from the world of showbiz. A proper new site, just with a libertarian perspective. It would have columnists of a similar mind- Dan Hannan or Booker or indeed Richard North come to mind (as well of course as many samizdatistas, and even DK if he could avoid pottymouth heh).

    The point is such a news site would attract readers for its news as the MSM do. It would be an MSM project, appealing beyond the politically highly motivated. And it would obviously cost quite a lot to set up and run as well, which seems daunting but is within the realm of the feasible.

    From a Gramscian perspective, we need to kickstart our counterhegemonic war of position to displace the current historic bloc, or whatever. With the web taking over from print as the primary news source for the population, now would be a good time to try something like this. We really need a way of getting at the general public.

  • Spot on, Ian (as always).

    I am still puzzled as to the subsidies to the media: I didn’t know there were any, except for the BBC in the UK (and their equivalents in Europe and Israel), and NPR and PBS in the US. What am I missing?

  • Michael

    Government jobs have to be advertised in the newspapers. Most such adverts go in the Guardian. In theory, the various government bodies could advertise in the Times or Telegraph as these papers have roughly the same sort of buyers. But they don’t. This explains why the BBC is run by the Guardian reading classes for an audience that reads the Telegraph & Mail.

  • Ian B

    Government jobs have to be advertised in the newspapers.

    No they don’t. They could set up a government jobs website- nothing fancy, just a database and a front end, couple of weeks work- and people who want government jobs could go look at them there. Or at the lavishly funded job centres. Or at private sector employment agencies. There’s no reason for government jobs to be in the Grauniad, or any other newspaper, whatsoever. The Age Of Steam is long over.

  • J

    “In theory, the various government bodies could advertise in the Times or Telegraph as these papers have roughly the same sort of buyers”

    That’s not true. Those papers all have quite different sorts of buyers. (Almost) all teaching jobs are advertised in the Times, not the Guardian. Why? Because they always have been. Because if you are a teacher it’s very helpful to buy the TES once a week and know that’s got all the jobs in it.

    As for the central jobs database, yes, you’d think they might have done that. It’s rather more than two weeks work – it would be a project of several million pounds, but it’s still small beer really. The problem is a chicken and egg one. Unless the government forbids its various departments from ever advertising anywhere else, they will continue to use what is most effective – the relevant journals and magazines. So, either central dictat is more effective in these matters or local discretion is more effective. I suspect the latter, even if this means a continuance of monopolies of certain sectors in certain publications.

  • RAB

    You mean a Libertarian Huffington Post then Ian.
    It will take a lot of money to set up I’m afraid, and that is in short supply right now.

    Blogs tend to leach on MSM stories and sourses, that is true.
    Where do we generate the cash to pay for our own in the field journalists?

  • Ian B

    No, not like the Huffington Post. I’m talking something mainstream, just like going to the Telegraph, Mail or BBC sites, except it’s run by a shadowy cabal of libertarians.

    Where do we get the money? Wherever people starting media businesses get the money, down the back of their sofas or venture capitalists or rich philanthropists or something. The key thing is it would have to get a reputation as a reliable, trustworthy news source, with in depth analysis and scoops, good financial reporting, colourful articles about begonia husbandry, all the stuff that goes into a regular newspaper, not just a diet of dreary political raving. It would have to be somewhere people visit by default just to get the news, not a meeting place for rabid libertarians as the Huffpo is for rabid socialists.

    The key thing here is “mainstream”.

    We’d probably want more than one eventually. One aiming at the broadsheet demographic, one full of girly celeb trivia (Daily Mail demographic) and one full of tits for the Sun demographic. But all very mainstream.

  • manuel II paleologos

    I’m unconvinced that there’s quite so clear a distinction between the MSM and blogs. Newspapers do not have armies of reporters digging out original stories; if you compare them, they are almost entirely made from spins from the same agency news feeds.

    I was forced to read The Independent over the holidays at my parents’ house and you wonder quite how they get away with it; reading it is like being shouted at for an hour by a spotty and particularly stupid undergraduate. It certainly wouldn’t be very hard or expensive to come up with something with considerably more original information and thought than that.

  • Laird

    I like the idea of a libertarian-oriented online publication to challenge the MSM hegemony, but I don’t understand how it would be economically viable. The websites maintained by MSM media all seem to be adjuncts to their traditional outlets (newspapers or broadcasts), not free-standing, self-sustaining sites. Assuming that we could raise the necessary start-up capital, how would such a site support itself? Advertising? Could it really sell enough? Subscription fees? At present most such sites are free, and I think it would be difficult to attract paying customers. I’m not saying this is impossible, just that I don’t understand the economics of content-based websites. Can someone educate me?

    FWIW, I have read The Wall Street Journal for decades, and still subscribe to a physical copy. Lately, though, have come to read the electronic version almost exclusively (many days I don’t even open the paper copy). I pay for that subscription, so clearly there is a market for content-based websites. Is it large enough (yet)?

  • Ian B

    That’s a good question, Laird. How news websites are to make a profit is not just a question for us, but for all the MSM sites, indeed it’s a question for the whole media.

    Since our site would have to be free then it’d have to be an advertising supported model, I’d presume. Which is one other reason for being very mainstream, and seeking a very mass readership.

  • Laird

    Thinking more about this, it seems to me that an additional source of revenue would be selling republication rights to the proprietary content (much as do the news agency feeds). Since the site would have its own dedicated reporters its stories would be copyrighted and salable (possibly even by subscription to other media outlets). Also, even if the main site is free it could charge for access to archived materials (those older than, say, 2 weeks). So if the content is of sufficiently high quality that it develops a following I suppose this project might be economically feasible.

  • Ralph

    A well written partisan blog will probably end up with more readers than any attempt to be mainstream.

  • RRS

    What has happened to the other periodicals such as magazines, lit quarterlies, etc. They too had been part of the print media, but have they not “declined” as well?

  • Ian B

    Ralph, the central problem with that is it will in the main only attract partisans. The key thing the left have always understood is that success requires prosletysation, by a multitude of methods. One way of looking at it is; it’s no good creating yet another libertarian blog that will attract the same bunch of enthusiasts who are reading all the other libertarian blogs, no matter how successful in that sector it is.

    One other idea I had a while back, which I may even do something about, was comics with a libertarian bias. Not overtly so- I have an idea for a superheroine story, in a basically libertarian setting. But the idea is, people read it because it’s a good story they enjoy, and absorb the libertarian message as they do so.

    We just need to try to advance on as many fronts as possible. Blogs are useful, particularly as meeting places, but they largely preach to the converted. Most of the population simply aren’t strongly politically motivated and the hope that we can get a majority of people strongly libertarian is a pipe dream- just as the majority are socialist or conservative frothers either. One of the key elements of selling an idea is “normalisation”- a lot of advertising works on this subtle idea. People will feel it’s okay to do or believe things if they’re aware that many others do or believe them- that the thing is “normal”. They are reluctant to go against the flow. It’s just normal human nature. The more people are exposed to an idea or product, the more they are aware of others thinking it or using it, the more comfortable they are with thinking or using it themselves. The Enemy understand this- which is why they marginalise and “denormalise” their opponents while normalising their own way through the media.

    We need mainstream outlets for our ideas.

  • Ian B


    …just as the majority aren’t socialist or conservative frothers…

  • RAB

    I’m trying to get my head around the new “optimistic” Ian B.

    Is that your New Year Resolution Ian? 😉

  • Paul Marks

    “How does the Independent get away with it?”

    Because good people like your parents buy it.

    It reminds me of people in the United States (everyone from Fox News commentators to Ludwig Von Mises Institute academics) attacking the collectivist rubbish of the New York Times.


    In this country people at the Institute of Economic Affairs still buy the “Economist”.

    “It is wildly inaccurate about Britain though Paul, and it is very statist”.

    “It is wildly inaccurate about every nation it covers Adam M…. and it is full of statist ideas for most of them – please, please stop buying it”.

    The B.B.C. I can understand – it is there because people are forced to pay a special tax to it, but for free market people to buy statist newspapers and magazines and then to whine that they are statist, makes no sense at all.

    If one want something to write “disgusted of ……. ” postings about, one can always find such things in libraries.

    That is one of the subsidies Alisa – start of a libertarian publication and see if the government library system wants to buy copies.

    In the United States the latest trick is for the auto companies to buy full page ads in the leftist newspapers – to thank people for the money they has been stolen from them to give to the auto companies.

    The money for the ads comes from the stolen money of course – and the newspapers the ads are in support general statism.

    So it all works out nicely.

    For statist politicians and corporate managers – and the academics and media people who support them.

  • Laird

    Ian B, your comic idea sounds good (although if you want it be even remotely “mainstream” you’d better steer clear of the porn elements!), but is there really much of a market for it? I suppose indoctrinating teenage boys with libertarian ideas is a good long-term strategy. Still, a lot of “mainstream” science fiction has a strong libertarian streak to it, and has for years, and from what little I know about “graphic novels” that seems to be the case there, too, but has any of that really had much impact? If I were you I don’t think I’d bother unless I though I could make some money at it.

  • Laird

    Look, I just got the word “porn” through the Smite filter! Let’s see if it works again:

    Porn, porn, porn!