Musings —03.07.2013 09:12 AM—
Son One and I listened to the Toronto Star’s John Honderich on Metro Morning this morning. He was on to provide the company’s spin on letting go a whole bunch of employees and cutting back at Canada’s biggest newspaper.
First: and Son One said it best, as he listened to Honderich say that a paywall was a good idea, because the New York Times had had success with a paywall. “But you’re not the New York Times,” said Son One. That said it all, I think. Smart kid.
Two: the media – and others in the business of selling content, in the way that media does – DID THIS TO THEMSELVES.
The example I like to use is compact discs. Remember when the music industry introduced them, more than three decades ago? The industry claimed that digitization was the way of the future, and that the public wouldn’t mind re-buying all the music they already owned, in the form of vinyl or tapes. That was a lie, of course. It was just another grubby money grab. Everyone knew it, too.
The music industry’s cynical ploy – their greed – ultimately was the thing that destroyed them. By pushing a medium that promoted digitized content, they had handed the keys to the vault to citizens. Enter Napster and the like, who figured out how take digitized content, and shop it around this cool new digital medium called “the Internet.” R.I.P., music industry.
I have never illegally downloaded music – not ever. Not once. For me, it’s an ideological position: I’m a (bad) musician, and I fervently believe unauthorized downloads hurt most the kinds of bands I love, guys like the ones I saw last night at the Horseshoe.
But there was schadenfreude to what the music biz did to itself, of course. And I had, and have, no sympathy for the corporate geniuses who slit their own throats with the digital money-grab. They were greedy, and they richly deserved what they got.
The news media’s self-immolation was different, but the result has been the same. When the opportunity came along to digitize content, they seized on it with glee. Except – unlike the music industry mavens – they gave their content away. They made it free.
The Internet was designed to be free, of course. So the news media deserve credit for how they sort-of embraced that, at the start. But they deserve no credit at all for never figuring out how to make money off the Internet.
After years of watching themselves bleed all over the floor, they have now decided (mixed metaphor alert!) to shut the barn door long after the horses – and the cows, and the sheep, and any farm animal that moves – have left. They’re gone, baby, gone.
Digitization changed the world. It gave birth to amazing new things. It has also killed off some things.
They’re not coming back.