Wednesday, August 1, 2007

New York Times and Harvard Miss the Point About News

The New York Times reported a few weeks ago that "Young Adults Are Giving Newspapers Scant Notice" - this being the conclusion of a Harvard study which found "only 16 percent of the young adults surveyed aged 18 to 30 said that they read a newspaper every day and 9 percent of teenagers said that they did." This means kids "aren't acquiring the news habit," observed Thomas Patterson, the Harvard professor who conducted the survey.

I think Patterson, Harvard, and, as per usual, The New York Times, are missing a crucial point: kids, teenagers, and young adults are getting their news on Digg, Netscape, Fark, and similar news sites.

People under thirty not giving up on the news - they're giving up on outmoded ways of presenting it.

Why read a newspaper, on paper or online, when you get headlines from hundreds of newspapers on Digg - in addition to blog posts and anything else with a url?

Nor does this mean that newspapers are finished - they just have to think of themselves as something different, a generator of stories that other sites pick up and distribute. In that sense, traditional organizations such as Reuters and AP are well ahead of newspapers in this new media world.

Of course, one problem that newspapers such as The New York Times will have is publishing misleading stories. It was one thing when the reader had the whole newspaper in hand, the good and the badly reported. It is quite another when a reader can effortlessly click off a story and go someplace else for another, or better rendition - or a different story entirely.
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