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How Can Old Media Survive? And What’s That Mean for You?

"There's no question: Traditional media businesses are struggling." That's the opening sentence in a special report (May 23, 2005, The Wall Street Journal, "How Old Media Can Survive in a New World")

It highlights a problem that's been growing for years. Cable has replaced much of traditional broadcast television. FM, then CDs, iPods, and satellite have squeezed traditional radio. All the electronic media put the squeeze on newspapers and magazines.

Each week, I bundle up more pounds of newsprint than I like to admit for the recycler. We read two local newspapers plus The Wall Street Journal.

I just returned from a Disneyland trip, and the hotel provided a newspaper at my door each morning. A nice touch, but I was driving home so I brought the papers home, just to make sure they get recycled. (I could blame that compulsion on my mother; she passed on the recycling gene.)

Perhaps more important is this question: What's it mean to you?

The development of influential "blog websites," which I think are more appropriately called "online newspapers," opens the door to anyone in politics, charity, or business.

Let's be clear here. We're not talking about "blogs." Sure, we've all heard about blogs, and they may provide some of the core technology, but we're concerned about "online newspapers," websites (like this one) which serve a specific niche business, ideal, or cause.

There's real beauty in the technology, because of how it takes us back 230 years. Back in the days of the American Revolution, newspapers were a force. When newspaper type was set a letter at a time, the words were dominant. And the newspaper was the dominant form of communication.

Today the technology has evolved into the internet. Paper is obsolete. Overnight printing and mailing newspapers are too slow. Today I can have an idea (for a product, a service, or a cause), take a few moments to type it into a computer screen, and it's published instantly. Waiting on a screen near you.

I don't have to own a big publishing company. I don't have to own an expensive broadcast company. Instead of a printing press, I need a computer, and a website.

You can do the same thing.

Even the old style website is obsolete. The new website is dynamic, data driven. Accessible. Changeable.

Thursday I met with friends who want new websites. One paid thousands of dollars and has waited over a year, but still no website. Each confessed amazement at the idea they could post a new web page in a few seconds, or make an edit by simply clicking "Edit this."

Finally, the internet is really working for us. And the "old media" really should be worrying.

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