Clay Shirky published an excellent essay on his blog on newspapers in the digital age.
Trying to understand an industry that hangs on to wishful thinking not connected with the reality around us, Shirky evokes a previous revolution -- the one of the printing press:
"That is what real revolutions are like. The old stuff gets broken faster than the new stuff is put in its place. The importance of any given experiment isnâ€™t apparent at the moment it appears; big changes stall, small changes spread. Even the revolutionaries canâ€™t predict what will happen. Agreements on all sides that core institutions must be protected are rendered meaningless by the very people doing the agreeing. (Luther and the Church both insisted, for years, that whatever else happened, no one was talking about a schism.) Ancient social bargains, once disrupted, can neither be mended nor quickly replaced, since any such bargain takes decades to solidify.
And so it is today. When someone demands to be told how we can replace newspapers, they are really demanding to be told that we are not living through a revolution. They are demanding to be told that old systems wonâ€™t break before new systems are in place. They are demanding to be told that ancient social bargains arenâ€™t in peril, that core institutions will be spared, that new methods of spreading information will improve previous practice rather than upending it. They are demanding to be lied to.
There are fewer and fewer people who can convincingly tell such a lie.
A highly recommended read.
(And a recent speech by New York Times CEO Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. pretty much confirms what Shirky says.)
Mark Vanderbeeken is a senior partner at Experientia, an international experience design consultancy, based in Turin, Italy. He is also the author of the successful experience design blog Putting People First. Mark is a specialist in visioning, identity development and strategic communications and worked in Italy, Denmark, the USA and Belgium. He was communications manager of Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, European communications coordinator for the World Wide Fund for Nature (or WWF), marketing director of Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects (USA) and chief press officer of Antwerp 93, Cultural Capital of Europe (Belgium).