I have to think about some of its central points, but Clay Shirky’s essay on how the Internet destroyed print journalism and how the major news conglomerates failed to adapt in the late nineties makes a number of must-read points. The first one is the most obvious: “Printing presses are terrifically expensive to set up and to run.” I should know: the college newspaper I help advise uses more than sixty percent of its budget on fixed costs, the bulk of which is printing. The interconnectedness of media and multinational businesses like Target and Wal-Mart is barely acknowledged; why do you think your Sunday newspaper has so many coupons and ads for them? When they hurt, newspapers hurt, and when newspaper hurt, they bleed, producing casualties like this.

But, ultimately, publishers got it all wrong:

Revolutions create a curious inversion of perception. In ordinary times, people who do no more than describe the world around them are seen as pragmatists, while those who imagine fabulous alternative futures are viewed as radicals. The last couple of decades haven’t been ordinary, however. Inside the papers, the pragmatists were the ones simply looking out the window and noticing that the real world was increasingly resembling the unthinkable scenario. These people were treated as if they were barking mad. Meanwhile the people spinning visions of popular walled gardens and enthusiastic micropayment adoption, visions unsupported by reality, were regarded not as charlatans but saviors.

(Hat Tip: Andrew Sullivan)

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