Trying to predict the future of the internet or even see how it will become a reliable source of facts, like the newspaper and television reports of yesteryearis, in my opinion, like standing in the sand in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and predicting the future of aviation.
As the Internet Effect evolved, the publishers of yesteryear wished it gone. I was one of them. But a long time ago, I told the Newsletter Publishers Association that it wasn’t enough to put a print article on a wire, you had to develop products for this new medium.
Some went ahead and took notice as the editors of newscasts like me were falling asleep, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Economist. They have adopted and adapted their offers to the Internet.
These are all publications that traditionally have a preponderance of readers interested in issues beyond local coverage. The Wall Street Journal has always had a business audience and has been able to adapt quickly.
The New York Times was able to leverage its global and national audience and convert it into online readers. The Economist had an obvious business audience to tap into and global affairs.
The Washington Post’s adoption of the Internet has been more dynamic.
When the Graham family sold the The Post to the richest man in the world at the time, Jeff Bezos, many of us thought it would be about another rich man buying up a newspaper to run it and enjoy the social opportunities that franchising provides. But Bezos saw the future and pumped money into the Post, not to keep it alive but to grow it hugely in the cyber world. He was right and pulled off an editorial coup.
What no one I knew in the publishing world saw, and it’s not in the literatureis that no one understood how the internet was going to suck up almost all of the advertising dollars.
Pure Internet companies, peripheral to the world of publishing, sucked up advertising, creating great wealth for their owners.
Although they don’t have any editing experience, and don’t even consider themselves editors, they added news articles – often generated by legitimate news organizations – as a gift, for which they have not been paid; if you write for a newspaper or magazine, you have been scammed by an internet publisher.
The irony is that in the 1980s and 1990s newspaper and television properties were highly valued and sold for unsuspected multiples. This was when Al Neuharth was building the Gannett Channel and launched USA Today. I knew Neuharth, a journalist at heart.
Now that empire has been sold, and many of its once-proud local titles are closed or look more like pamphlets than newspapers. The advertising, and therefore the revenue, went to the Internet giants.
But they are not newspapers, and their owners are not publishers. They are aggregators, and thanks to the wonder of the internet, they have a global presence and penetration that is beyond the wildest dreams. craziest of Rupert Murdoch, Conrad Black and the Sulzberger dynasty.
I salute publications that attack the internet by creatingdaily editions online and keeping alive the profession of yesteryear.
These include The New Yorker and The Spectator, an English magazine trying to establish itself in the United States.
On a recent visit to Edinburgh, my wife and I walked into a Newsstand, the traditional British shop that sells newspapers, magazines and sundries, to buy some newspapers. Above the store entrance was a large blue sign advertising The Scotsman. The owner told my wife that he no longer sells newspapers and no one needs to read them.
If you know there is a war in Ukraine, it is because the mainstream media have told you so, because the brave reporters are on the ground, not on the internet. Repeat this sentence for Iran, China, Mexico, without forgetting Washington, Toronto, London, Rome, Moscow and Beijing.
We need the old media, often called “mainstream media”. We have earned this nickname. The Hill, Axios and Politico show where national-level journalism could go. But who will cover the House of Representatives, the school board and the courts? In the darkness, all these institutions drift.
At a courthouse in Prince William County, Virginia, I asked about media coverage. The woman showing me around sighs and says, “We used to have journalists, they even had their own office, but not anymore.” Lady Justice had closed one eye.
On Twitter: @llewellynking2
Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of the White House Chronicle on PBS
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The media in the age of the Internet: attacked but necessary
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