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Another reason to let newspapers die

Every once in awhile I come across a piece that precisely puts its finger on something I’ve been circling and gesturing toward for years. Such a piece is Cory Doctorow’s on the implications of “Close Enough for Rock ‘n Roll” and the Internet:

… rock ‘n’ roll is cheap, experimental and fluid, and devotes most of its energy into the production of music. Orchestral music is expensive, formal and majestic, but tithes a large portion of its effort to coordination and overheads and maintenance.

If the Internet has a motif, it is rock ‘n’ roll’s Protestant Reformation thrashing against the orchestral One Church. Rock ‘n’ roll gets lots of wee kirks built in every hill and dale in which parishioners can find religion in their own ways; choral music erects majestic cathedrals that humble and amaze, but take three generations of laborers to build.

He goes on to apply this framework to media businesses:

This is the pattern: doing something x percent as well with less-than-x percent of the resources. A blog may be 10 percent as good at covering the local news as the old, local paper was, but it costs less than 1 percent of what that old local paper cost to put out. A home recording studio and self-promotion may get your album into 30 percent as many hands, but it does so at five percent of what it costs a record label to put out the same recording.

And that, more than anything I’ve read previously, describes the future of media: Messy, fragmented, rarely-perfect, always interesting and exhilarating and new, always taking risks. In short, we’re on the cusp of something wonderful.

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