Transformation of Media

Dan Savage strikes a forward-looking tone in discussing some organizational changes at The Stranger (“The More Things Change,” SLOG, 19 September 2007):

You’re reading this online, so you’re probably aware that The Stranger isn’t just a newspaper anymore: In addition to our weekly print edition, we’ve got blogs, podcasts, video, tons of expanded web content, and the occasional amateur porn contest. In order to manage the growth of our editorial content — in order to keep putting out Seattle’s only newspaper while at the same time running the best alt-weekly website in the country — we’ve had to change our editorial department’s structure.

Media is changing, as inevitably it will under the pressure of technology. One can be matter-of-fact about it, or try to get out ahead of it and shape the coming new world or one can endure the slow extinction of a species whose ecological niche is dwindling. “The Stranger isn’t just a newspaper anymore.” What a breath of fresh air. And this from a man who just two years ago wrote as a guest blogger (“Who Am I? Why Am I Here?, Daily Dish, 8 August 2005),

“Savage Love” readers have been asking me to start a blog of my own for, oh, six or seven years now and I’ve resisted. I’m a Luddite, I confess, one of the ways in which my deeply conservative soul expresses itself. It was only a few years ago that I started accepting email at “Savage Love” …

This reminds me that Matthew Yglesias had a subdued blog-triumphalism mini-kick back in July-August that unlike most blog-triumphalism was really pretty interesting.

Now With Charts,” The, 24 July 2007

This is a reminder, I think, of why we should look forward to the day when the op-ed column is a dead format and everyone just blogs. Brooks’ original column would, obviously, have been better if it — like Nyhan’s reply — had come with links to data and charts. What’s more, it’d be good if we could expect Brooks to reply to the sort of criticisms he’s getting from Nyhan, Dean Baker, and others. Maybe he has something fascinating to say on his own behalf. But the way the columnizing world works, there’s almost no chance he’ll address his next column to trying to rebut the critics of this one. But a back-and-forth debate on this subject with links and charts and data would be much more interesting than what we’re going to get instead where liberals decide Brooks is a liar and Brooks remains convinced that liberals are crazy.

Better Get a New Job,” The, 19 August 2007

As Kevin Drum says there was no crowding out here where what Marty Lederman or Duncan Black or Andrew or I were doing somehow made it more difficult for newspapers to do investigative reporting. If anything, the reverse is true. The widespread availability of a vast sea of armchair analysis and commentary on the internet will, over time, force large, professionalized news organizations to focus on their core, hard-to-duplicate competencies — and spend less time on the sort of fact-averse punditry Skube’s doing right here.

It was easier to see the harrumphing of the recording industry as what it was: the slothful groan of the vested interest in the face of a new upstart. There was too much crass money lying around for us to not see through all their protestations about art. Journalists and writers have a more subtly wrought tale to spin.

I particularly like Mr. Yglesias’s second point. The bloggosphere and the mainstream media are like countries in the economist’s parable of comparative advantage. And like the citizenry of those countries, bloggers and journalists can’t help but see the shifts and specialization from which the advantage arises as anything but threatening. “They took our jobs.”

It’s worth noting that in the theory of comparative advantage both countries benefit from specialization even when one country is superior at all activities in question. Perhaps it won’t matter so much that bloggers are just a bunch of guys in their pajamas and that politicians have learned how to game the press.