Thursday, December 09, 2010

LRB · John Lanchester · Let Us Pay [London Review of Books]

Excerpt from a timely reality check

The internet is the most effective means of giving stuff away for free that humanity has ever devised. Actually making money from it is not just hard, it may be fundamentally opposed to the character and momentum of the net. And yet this is where the newspaper business now is. Its underlying problems are to do with the net: loss of circulation and ad revenue are both driven by the rise of new media. Its opportunities come from the net too: that huge new army of readers. The industry is no longer going off a cliff, but it is still on a downward slope, and unless something happens to stop it, costs per copy will continue to rise relative to sales, and eventually newspapers will either die or (more likely) be so hollowed out by cost-cutting that they exist as freesheets with a thin, non-functioning veneer of pretend journalism. In the words of the OECD report: ‘Those writing about the developments of the press emphasise that despite the length of the newspaper history, it is relatively recent that non-partisan, independent press coupled with investigative journalism are the order of the day.’ It hasn’t been here for ever, and it could well go away.

LRB · John Lanchester · Let Us Pay

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