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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The MSM is Dying Because it is Afflicted With Terminal Lameness


A day or two ago, I received my complementary copy of Mix Magazine, the latest in a long line of doomed ventures the Oregonian--Portland's daily--has concocted to stave off death. If you don't live in Oregon, no worries; Mix is an example of a standard gambit dead-tree media have been deploying for years. It's a "lifestyle" zine, featuring scant, breezy words and large, colorful pictures. But mainly it's ads. The O has offered these free to subscribers as a way of "hooking" them so they'd subscribe after a few editions. It is certain to fail and the reasons read like a list of indictments against the whole enterprise of publishing.

Publishing was a model based on a simple balance of forces. Because information was hard to find, publishers occupied a primo spot: they could act as middlemen to put readers and advertisers together, taking shekels from both in the process. Genius! They have always been in the business of selling content to subscribers and subscribers to advertisers.

But it's not 1973 anymore. People do not have to depend on newspapers to feed them information, drip by drip, at the cost of a hundred ads. We no longer need newspapers, but newspapers can't get this through their thick heads. Instead, they compile advertising supplements, sprinkle a few two-month-old blog-post length pieces in, and ask us to shell out five bucks. Surely we'll see the value there? Surely?

Instead, of course, we go online where the same information is free and current and very often better. Rule of thumb: all things being equal, people will consume free content. I have no idea what might save the MSM. But Mix is definitel

[/end rant]

Update. It's always the most ill-considered post that get the most comments. Why? I should just add that my critique here is not with writers. God forbid! I would love to see a system emerge where we would get paid to do it. And I take no pleasure in the dozens of good writers who've lost jobs at the O in the past decade. My comment is directed squarely at the MSM for their failure to see how doomed things like the Mix are. I love reading about beer, wine, and food. The problem is, the Mix is not a publication that sates this need. It's purely designed to sell ad space, and the effort they put in attracting my eyeballs is so meager that it requires--or at least provoked--a rant. It would be great if John Foyston and Catherine Cole were unleashed to write serious pieces in the Mix. I'd pay for that! They're not, and I blame the Oregonian.


  1. Foyston is gonna kick your ass when he reads this. Actually, I agree with what you're saying. The O keeps dropping off free/unwanted papers on my door step in plastic bags. I've never subscribed. This I find almost as annoying as the friggin' 1000 page phonebooks that keep showing up. It is as if they are in denial that the Internets exist. Every time I see glossy print nonsense with metal staples in them I think the producers should hold the onus for the recycling of their massive amount wastefulness. And what you said about it being old news is so true. I just picked up the "new" NW Brew rag and read about what happened in August. No immediacy whatsoever. Just cherry picked content from the front lines (the bloggers).

  2. I agree and I disagree. The internet is killing off most media, but there is lots of media I am still willing to pay for. For exmample, The Economist, which actually has very few ads. And The Atlantic, but that's because I choose to pay for a money losing enterprise because I belief the reporting/research they do is worth my expenses. Some articles will continue.

    Just as regional bands survived the coming of Tapes and CD's, because they provided and environment or quality that the recordings could not, some dead tree publishings will survive. It will be significantly less, but they will survive because people will explicitly choose to support them.

    I think that's a good thing.

  3. I agree too, but we still have SOME people out there from the Newspaper generations. Even my own generation grew up reading the newspaper and still have that age group not online. After the fall of the 60's conservation efforts and the negative connotation of the word Green Peace, we had a generation that's concept of saving trees was marked by the following slogan:

    Save a Tree... Eat a Beaver!

    They definitely weren't to concerned about tree preservation and many still follow that line of thinking.

    These new Picture and ad mags are pretty much a giant waste of paper for those who have the mentality, It's better to look at a photo than read anything of substance. ;-}

    Angelo makes a great point with stupid phone books and even other trash mailings. I love how we get mail from local political candidates who say they support the environment, yet, are wasting tons of paper for their glossy/flashy mailers that come everyday! Can you say hypocrites?

  4. When are we going to start living in plastic or adobe houses? Lumber for new houses is still a big market.

  5. Angelo, I considered mentioning Foyston, but it is ultimately off-topic. He does great work, and he doesn't need the Mix to highlight it. I mean, they HAVE a newspaper already.

    Okobojicat, definitely true. Dead-tree media isn't uniformly bad. Where it's good is in long-form journalism, like the Economist. But the Mix completely repeats blog information. Literally none of it is new, interesting, or unavailable in 100 other places.

    Doc, beavers are nice--they taste like badgers.

  6. Angelo is kidding, of course, as my ass-kicking days were neither numerous nor notable and are, at any rate, long past. And my admiration for Jeff's stuff ---and Angelo's --- is well known, I hope. I don't think blogs are the entire answer --- it's sad that a guy can't make a workman's wage at writing, as was once possible when newspapers walked the Earth, but Jeff and Angelo and Ezra and BS Brewing and Dr. W and all the rest for sure make this a more interesting and richer scene...and we'll chat about Mix over a pint some time...

  7. Nice / civil exchange on Election Day. Thanks for sharing.

  8. A beaver taste like badger? Maybe yours needed a bath?

    (Either you are totally clueless or wanted me to walk right into that one...)