Clay Shirkey on the Future of Newspapers

March 26th, 2009

I was holding back on whether to blog the brilliant entry by Clay Shirky on the future of newspapers, well-titled, “Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable.”

Within 24 hours there were thousands of links to this tremendously provocative and well-written blog entry. Why add my voice?

Because I want to make sure that you see it, and digest what he writes for all it’s worth. Which is plenty.

Shirky makes the best argument I’ve yet read on where newspapers are heading.

You must read his whole entry, but here a couple of salient points:

* The problem newspapers face isn’t that they didn’t see the internet coming. They not only saw it miles off, they figured out early on that they needed a plan to deal with it, and during the early 90s they came up with not just one plan but several.

* Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism.

Why I’m particularly drawn to this piece is that Shirky has read Elizabeth Eisenstein’s: “…magisterial treatment of Gutenberg’s invention, “The Printing Press as an Agent of Change,” opens with a recounting of her research into the early history of the printing press…”

Ms. Eisentein’s book is tough reading, particularly in the unabridged volume. But I do think it’s the best guide to fully understanding the changes taking place in this publishing era. After all, they’re not really as dramatic as what took place when the printing press was introduced in Europe in the 15th century.

I think that Shirky’s “essay” is surely one of the most interesting blog entries you’ll catch this season.