Ed Driscoll

Dave's World--In The Blogosphere

The San Francisco Chronicle has a profile of Dave Barry, who tells the newspaper that “Newspapers are dead”:

Several years ago, Barry created the blog www.davebarry.com. It features typical “Barryisms,” odd news stories sent in by ubiquitous “alert readers,” columns, and a recurring feature called “A Fine Name for a Rock Band.” (Most recent submission: Loincloth Outrage.)

“About five years ago, I went to the Herald and I told them, ‘I’ve got this blog and maybe you’d like to run it,’ ” Barry said. “And they said, ‘It’s a what?’ But then they had a committee meeting or something and now they want everybody to have a blog. They want the security guard to have a blog.”

Barry’s blog has taken off like gangbusters, and like podcasts, blogs are the Next Big Thing in journalism. More and more newspapers are offering blogs covering everything from the local sports scene to the business world. (See The Chronicle’s “culture blog” and others at sfgate.com.)

So it’s clear that although there may be doubts about the future of the newspaper industry, there are directions in which it can expand and thrive. The future is digital.

It has to be said, however, that Barry is not optimistic. A little more than a year ago, he announced that he was taking a sabbatical from his column, and has now decided to make the break permanent. The reason, he stresses, was not that he had a lack of faith in the industry, but that he was ready to move on. Still, he has grave doubts about the future of newspapers.

“It has to start with the kids,” he said. “My son is 25. He’s been around newspaper people all of his life. He doesn’t get the paper. That’s the first problem. The second problem is: We can no longer compel people to pay attention. We used to be able to say, there’s this really important story in Poland. You should read this. Now people say, I just look up what I’m interested in on the Internet.”

Meanwhile, Arnold Kling asks, “Is Blogging a Fad?”

He doesn’t think so, and I don’t either–but with one caveat: individual self-publishing on the Internet is not a fad–but it’s possible its form could change radically in the coming years. I picked up the February 7th issue of PC Magazine to read on a flight to L.A. last week–and wide swatches of the issue are devoted to its cover story: video on the Web. It’s entirely possible that within a few years, Blogs could be supplemented by much more dynamic multimedia formats. But in a way, that just proves Kling’s argument. There will still be millions of blogs, just as television didn’t eliminate movies, and didn’t eliminate radio–and the ‘Net hasn’t eliminated any of those mediums either. (Pace Dave Barry, it’s a fairly safe prediction that any metropolitan area with a large number of commuters will have dead tree newspapers of some sort for decades to come–but they probably won’t have the same level of prominence they once took for granted.)