BITS AND PIECES
It has saddened me a bit that, from my viewpoint, specialized magazines (they were aplenty in the 1980s) are dwindling because of diminishing ad revenues. Whether that is an undisputable fact, I cannot verify. Some of my favorite titles have went away or have taken on a broader appeal—essentially, that is Old School Magazine (Life, Look) mentality.
Newspapers, on the other hand, have themselves to blame for their plight. The Internet weaseled in on a lot of daily paper territory, but did papers have to put a gun to their own heads by giving away content for free, on the World Wide Web, no less?
The one thing newspapers had in their favor was local content. No one else was posting obituaries from Palookaville except for the Palookaville Press. High school soccer scores, zoning board meetings, 4-H fair pictures—all staples of the local rag, a bit too specific and disinteresting enough for Web surfers in general, but enough to sustain a paper and the locals whom it represents. But to then make it available, gratis, on the Internet is unthinkable.
Forget the gun/head analogy—shooting oneself in the foot is more appropriate.
One area newspaper called me a year or two ago to see if I would take out a subscription. What would be the point, I said, when you give away the content for free online?
Looking back on it, I feel like I've betrayed my own cause by tossing the local paper down the gutter, so to speak. If I don't buy the paper, the circulation drops, the amount the paper can charge advertisers dwindles, the paper's ad revenues fall, then...down goes the paper. A bit oversimplified, of course, but it's the crumbling of an industry in a microcosm.
We're all agents for the printed word and, as such, should take every opportunity to promote and support it. If we sold Fords for a living, we wouldn't tell everyone the 2006 Dodge line is incredibly exciting. But wherever I go, it seems pundits are forecasting the future of print to include almost everything except printing.