Web 2.0 might not provide the entire Journalistic experience readers are looking for

Posted on February 10, 2011

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I don’t know what’s worse- knowing that you’re going to be $40,000 in debt in four years to get a bachelors degree in a program all of your instructors have warned you is dying OR being willing to cough up $40,000 because you still have a smidgen of faith that it’ll be around long enough for you to retire.

Since the first day of university, it has been embedded in my brain that the print industry is going down.

It already has a grave site and a tombstone. The only thing that needs to be added is the date of death.

Clay Shirkey, an American writer, consultant and teacher on the social and economic effects of Internet technologies, explains the downward spiral of the newspaper industry in his article Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable.

Shirkey’s point that stood out to me most, was his point of the high costs associated with the print industry versus the online world.

Paul Gillin, a technology journalist and author wrote a paper called How the Coming Newspaper Industry Collapse Will Reinvigorate  Journalism .

His prespective clarifies ideas that Skirkey mearly mentions in his paper.

Essentially, the business model of a daily newspaper was developed over 150 years ago. It consists of a huge staff to produce original content, type, print and distribute this material.

The industry thrives off of large circulation operations and a massive subscriber list to justify its absurd ad rates, and to pay for its capital costs (including buildings, presses, papers, ink and the people running the show).

The whole newspaper model thrives on the idea that local, timely information is hard to come by. Newspaper giants have built high expense infrastructures to deliver that information to the people who want it.

Although the print industry has been profitable, it has been extremely expensive. With no alternate lined up, it rules the media world.

Until now.

So was born, Web 2.0.

Web 2.0 makes information much more timely, as it can be updated by the minute instead of by the day- and is also much cheaper.

The new business model makes the print industry almost obsolete.

It’s cheap to create,operate and they’re easily accessable.

What comes from this, is a fresh and vibrant way of looking at the world. Journalism changes with the medium.

Websites like www.fark.com (an online newswire), has approximately 40 million page views a month. Want to know the surprising part?

In 2006, they had those numbers with only one full time staff member, and their only real operating costs were for the bandwith they were using.

Web 2.0 does things that the print industry can’t dream of doing.

But, on the flip side- the print industry does things that Web 2.0 would kill for.

Fact checking. Editors. Truth. Credibility.

This fabricated world that exists in a wire throughout the world, and is translated onto a screen in front of my face makes things easy. Sure, I’ll give it that much.

But, if I am writing this blog. Typing. Claiming I’m following the rules of the industry. Doing a few google searches every now and then to check my sources. blah. blah. blah. And at the end of the day it’s technically a piece of published work, what separates me from the guy with a PhD doing the same thing?

Nothing.

We both have too much time on our hands hoping to make our point known to at least one other person.

Although one of us is credible, and well…. the other is hoping to get a passing grade in their class- neither of us have people checking our facts, making sure every single thing we claim is correct. Neither one of us have editors to make sure we use subordinate clauses in their correct manner. And neither of our articles can be brought to the bathroom by the truck driver after driving 5 straight hours, and making 3 McDonalds runs.

Web 2.o makes the world a smaller place, and maybe even a better one (depending on who you follow on twitter), but the reality is that it also makes every online publication more at risk of being held libel for something they say.

What’s the future of print journalism?

Well, Gillin claims it will be gone in 10 years. Others say it’s on it’s death bed. But who really knows?

For my sake, I hope the print industry hangs on a little while longer.

For the sake of everyone relying on online publications as their sole means of information- I hope that the void between fact and fiction is filled, and the industries credibility doesn’t go down the drain.

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