Perusing the intertubes via RSS this morning I came across a troubling and thought-provoking post by Tim O'Reilly about the troubles facing the San Francisco Chronicle (in particular) and the newspaper biz (in general). I started my career in the newspaper business and it's more than a little disturbing and sad to see one of the great dailies facing the inexorable tide of the net. O'Reilly closes with the following observation that I find myself in complete agreement with:
We talk about creative destruction, and celebrate the rise of blogging as citizen journalism and Craigslist as self-service advertising, but there are times when something that seemed great in theory arrives in reality, and you understand the downsides. I have faith both in the future and in free markets as a way to get there, but sometimes the road is hard. If your local newspaper were to go out of business, would you miss it? What kinds of jobs that current newspapers do would go undone?
Frankly, I've all about abandoned the local newspaper. By the time I open it, the stuff inside is essentially old news. I can get the same (or usually better) content online faster and cheaper. I do subscribe to the Sunday New York Times because my wife likes to read it and it gets me access to the NYT online services and NY Times Reader application for Windows (which makes for a great demo on the Tablet PC and never ceases to impress people with its fluid re-rendering pf page content. I think the Times is blowing it big time with their recently announced price model for this app though. It undoes much of the good they've accomplished in their attempts to remain relevant IMO. They offer a customizable home page with AJAX, RSS feeds, a decent toolbar (Windows only) and the Times Select service which makes bookmarking and retrieving articles really easy.
Then they go and announce a bone-headed, we-don't-really-get-it price model for the Times Reader app. Sorry - $165 is a bit too rich for most people's tastes.
Update: Good thoughts from Doc Searls on how to fix what's broken.