December 18, 2008

Death of print (part 1)

By: David Donadio

This morning I happened to watch President-elect Barack Obama appoint his latest round of officials on CNBC. As Obama named current Financial Industry Regulatory Authority CEO Mary Schapiro to head the SEC, former Undersecretary of Treasury (and Goldman Sachs partner) Gary Gensler to head the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, and law professor and Clinton veteran Dan Tarullo to a governorship at Federal Reserve Board, CNBC superimposed the Dow Jones Industrial Average on screen.

You could watch the market fluctuate in response to the appointments, the anticipation of further economic regulation (will it put our house back in order, or only solve yesterday’s problems?), the words of the appointees themselves (does she seem stable? And competent? She doesn’t huff airplane glue, does she? What does the red top signify? Is she a commie?) And all along, up and down goes the Dow.

How is print ever going to compete with the real-time world?

Addendum: I meant to link earlier to this James Surowiecki piece:

Newspaper readership has been slowly dropping for decades—as a percentage of the population, newspapers have about half as many subscribers as they did four decades ago—but the Internet helped turn that slow puncture into a blowout. Papers now seem to be the equivalent of the railroads at the start of the twentieth century—a once-great business eclipsed by a new technology. In a famous 1960 article called “Marketing Myopia,” Theodore Levitt held up the railroads as a quintessential example of companies’ inability to adapt to changing circumstances. Levitt argued that a focus on products rather than on customers led the companies to misunderstand their core business. Had the bosses realized that they were in the transportation business, rather than the railroad business, they could have moved into trucking and air transport, rather than letting other companies dominate. By extension, many argue that if newspapers had understood they were in the information business, rather than the print business, they would have adapted more quickly and more successfully to the Net.