The future (and history) of newspapers, continued

Argh! New technology is going to kill newspapers! In this week’s Christmas issue of The Economist I explain why people were worried about this — in 1845 — and what actually happened. The new technology in question was the telegraph, and newspapers co-opted it, rather than being destroyed by it. Will that also happen with the internet? As I have argued here previously, the internet is different because it does challenge the last-mile delivery of newspapers. (The telegraph was not a threat to papers in the end because although it delivered news faster, it could not distribute it to subscribers. The internet can do both.) So the internet may well kill newspapers; but newspapers are merely one business model for the delivery of news, and there is no reason why they should survive. The death of newspapers is not the same as the death of news. Already we are seeing new models emerge that do not depend on paper. Some publications will make the leap; many will not. If I was setting up a newspaper today I’d want it to look a lot like Bloomberg: global network of reporters, cash-cow terminals/financial information business to pay the bills, and (now) a consumer brand in the form of BusinessWeek. As this article argues, Bloomberg has a lot going for it, and it may prove to be the greatest competitor to The Economist in the medium term. Something for the next editor-in-chief to worry about, perhaps.

  1. Rachel said:

    After reading A History of the World in 6 Glasses, I noticed your use of the word “proxy” on page 265. You refer to Coca-Cola as a good proxy for a country’s degree of globalization. What do you mean by the word “proxy”? I’ve tried several dictionaries, to no avail. PLEASE HELP!

    Thank you

    • tomstandage said:

      My apologies; I’m using the term in the sense of a “proxy variable”, which is how economists use it:
      It means a measurable thing that indicates the value of another related, but difficult to measure, thing. In this case the consumption of Coca-Cola (easily measured) is used as a “quick and dirty” indicator of how globalised a country is (harder to measure, though there are ways to do it).

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