Erik Larson

Feb 1, 2009

On Print Media

The New York Times ran an obviously self-referential op-ed Wednesday on the demise of newspapers from a steadily increasing Web readership. I read the NYT and the Wall Street Journal newspapers, and the thought of a world absent physical newspapers borders on fear. A world without newspapers?

It’s understandable that news consumers have turned to digital content; it’s mostly freely available, easy to access, and ubiquitous now that broadband is a commonplace in American homes and offices. I don’t blame the new generation for turning to the Web for their news fix these days. It makes sense. And newspapers, like so many other products pulled from the shelves of consumer markets, are perhaps just the latest victims in the ongoing history of failed business models. Their readers are the hapless dinosaurs watching the darkening sky, faintly aware that it signals an end and some new beginning.

If the newspapers fail — and many of them are suffering and on the verge — we’ll have lost something that can’t be replaced by so many Web pages. For those who know the joy of fetching the morning newspaper, holding in hand the new day, thumbing through the world of events and information and commentary, look up. See the sky darkening as unsustainable business models die their slow but ineluctable deaths. And know also that the paper you hold retains a value that changing consumer markets does not explain, or describe.