Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Shirky on newspapers

Clark Shirky has written an exceptionally thought-provoking essay on the future of newspapers and what we can learn about it from remembering the first decades of the printing press. Here’s the opening:

Back in 1993, the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain began investigating piracy of Dave Barry’s popular column, which was published by the Miami Herald and syndicated widely. In the course of tracking down the sources of unlicensed distribution, they found many things, including the copying of his column to alt.fan.dave_barry on usenet; a 2000-person strong mailing list also reading pirated versions; and a teenager in the Midwest who was doing some of the copying himself, because he loved Barry’s work so much he wanted everybody to be able to read it.

One of the people I was hanging around with online back then was Gordy Thompson, who managed internet services at the New York Times. I remember Thompson saying something to the effect of “When a 14 year old kid can blow up your business in his spare time, not because he hates you but because he loves you, then you got a problem.” I think about that conversation a lot these days.

I encourage you all to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest. I hope to offer some of my own reflections later.


  • Tony Comstock said...

    Any one who knows where to look can find our films for free; hundreds of thousands of dollars and thousands of hours of effort free for the taking if you know where to look, and I have no expectation that this will turn in our favor.

    The future for artist is in performance and advertising. A not inconsiderable portion of my intellectual energy goes into imagining how we can survive in such an environment.

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