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06/29/2008

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Ari

Good article, but I don't think that Microsoft Windows is a good example of a bundled product. Windows is an operating system, one with no truly impressive applications built-in. And the vast majority of consumers do not buy Windows separately - it comes pre-installed on their PCs. It is the default option, and for most, serves but one purpose, namely, to run their software. Apple's Macintosh operating system installed by default on its computers might provide a better example - Apple computers have iLife, a fairly good suite of digital media applications, out of the box. Not everyone wants iLife, but many do, and so Apple is able to charge quite a premium for its hardware/software combinations.

DGG

Interesting opinion. I concur but I think that it is more fruitful to think of newspapers as two-sided platform businesses bringing together readers and advertisers. Looking at newspapers as bundles provides some insights but leaves many things unexplained. Two-sided markets may help understand pricing issues and maybe survival strategies towards the future.

Thomas B.

The internet even offers a quick substitute for the bundled nature of the newspaper. With Netvibes or iGoogle, I can find out current sports or weather news with a glance, side by side with the headlines from this blog.

I think in Posner's final point he overestimates the contributions of print journalism to the web's content. As bandwidth increases, the web is increasingly "parasitic" on televised sources, and the web even generates a fair amount of investigation, comment and criticism on its own. The web might limp along a few years more, even without print journalism to feed on.

FS Tate

You fail to address the BIG problem with so many newspapers and readers, that so many of us readers disbelieve just about everything in so many newspapers, unless proven elsewhere.

Most newspapers have been used to having their "own" facts for too long and want to be political advocacy organizations. As more and more people (under 65 in particular) use the Internet they come to learn that they have been lied to by the elite news media and come to trust nothing in them.

Once the damage is done, it is VERY difficult to win these folks back.

Also, how will the "news" reporters be fixed, for they have been lying in support of their political advocacy efforts for years. Most are not fixable, rather they must be replaced.

Additionally, the productivity of the typical newspaper reporter is small, often just one or two stories a week vs. much more for the typical contributor to an Internet site.

I used to love reading newspapers, in particular on Sunday morning. Now I read them only to find out the official lies of the day, their message to the ignorant masses (how they view us). I get the lies of the day (for free) each morning when I check the NY Times and Wash Post.

Most sad that these newspapers are destroying themselves and nothing can save them, certainly not their Internet site.

Michael

Re: the comment of FS Tate.
It seems to me the NYTimes has realized this problem that they're in as evidenced by the David Brooks column on the success of the surge. Here locally we had a 'thumbs down' on the editorial page for McCain's aide saying that a terrorist attack would rebound positively on McCain as a candidate. Didn't fit their preferred circumlocution (but fit the Republicans are 'man' meme?). Anyway all of this puts me in the market for a book on German WWII newspaper articles. 'Allies destroyed on the beach at Normandy' to be folowed by 'German Army quits Paris to save Vichy Government' etc.

Robert

I agree with the comments of Judge Posner but, despite not being a fan of newspapaers, lament the inevitable loss of context to a story that only a newspaper can provide. Will newspapers go the way of books, i.e., turned into a "wirless reading device" (see here: http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-Amazons-Wireless-Reading-Device/dp/B000FI73MA)? Your guess is as good as mine.

Thomason

The internet actually has increased the population that wants to read the Wash Post or the NYTimes, or other major market papers, on a daily basis, bundled or unbundled. Before the internet, most everyone past Virginia or Pennsylvania could only obtain day-old news in the printed versions of major East Coast newspapers. Today, the web lets anyone, anyplace, read 'breaking news' reports across a range of newspapers. That made me a devoted reader, daily, of the Financial Times, NY Times, Houston Chronicle, Seattle Post and the San Francisco Chronicle. But even an interested reader, in most parts of the country, could not find a printed copy of any one of those papers to purchase on a Sunday morning.
Articles on declining newspaper readership too often bemoan 'content' or unbundling as the cause of the decline. True, every publication must give readers something they care to read, but the reader must get the paper to determine if its worthy to read. Residents of Brooklyn's Park Slope or Chicago's Lincoln Park, or other urban neighborhoods, still have corner newstands where they can easily get the Times or the Tribune. But think how many readers live in non-metropolitan cities, and cul-de-sac subdivisions, with no stores of any kind in walking distance, or only near stores that sell fashions or home improvements. You can't buy the big newspapers. Kids don't sell papers on the corner; newstands are becoming obsolete; coin-operated vendors so often malfunction; a subscription to a major daily, outside their primary locale, is exorbitant.
Unless newspapers figure out a way to distribute their product to as many readers as they have, then they will fold. Few if any readers are going to drive an extra 20 minutes every morning, or walk to the one remaing newstand that's still there, to get even their most favorite newspaper. Ads are historically local, so that'll dry up as circulation figures decline. If content is a concern, then that can be corrected, but if there's no means to distribute the most readable, desirable newspaper, except for free on the web, then newspapers will have no future.

John Johnson

I am a regular reader of the New York Times living in London. At some level I'd be happy to be targeted for ads recognizing this. I would regret it greatly if fine newspapers didn't succeed in making the transition to a paperless future. One only has to read a few political blogs for a while to rediscover what quality reporting and writing is about.

dmills

"With the rise of the blogs, moreover, the amount of information and opinion reaching the public is far greater than in the heyday of the print newspapers"

Is this documented somewhere? If so, is there evidence that the "public" is making more informed or better decisions?

neilehat

First we had an oral tradition, until Homer came along put it down in writing. Then we had the rise of scriptorums and only the wealthy could read. Then Gutenburg came along and put it all in print. Then everybody could read (at least those who learned to read). Then the radio came along and then we were back to an oral tradition. Then television came along and we regressed even further to a purely visual tradition. Meanwhile the "Newspaper" kept stumbling along. Now we have the Internet and all. Yet, somehow, all the "communication" going on still isn't as good as when we only had the single oral tradition.

Is the "Medium truly the Message"?

Either the "Newspaper" gets on top of the Medium or the Medium will get on top of it.

Jack

If news organizations are to survive it seems they must look closely at what they can offer of value. For example a book, may be worth $20 or more, not for its topical nature but the in depth worth of its content.

It would seem that the AP system could be better tuned to provide more beef and less fluff. For example during those crucial days when we thought a decision on invading Iraq was being made there seemed no shortage of human transponders ready to convey the company line and all too few looking behind the curtain that have shrouded the Bush Admin since its inception.

Again we're at the point of making one of the biggest decision a democracy faces; who to put into the White House for four years, along with selecting the Congressmen up for re-election (whopps! did I say up for RE-election?) to enact or resist the agenda of the new President.

I'm recalling the 2000 "vetting" of the candidates and candidate, Bush, upon being asked about his proposed tax cuts getting away with a "follow up" question by simply answering that he "felt" that no one should pay more than a third of their wages in federal taxes. Of course many of us "feel" the same, but this would have seemed an opportune time for reporters to gather the thoughts of academics, economists (not employed by agenda driven no-think-tanks) and point out that we had the choices of A. cutting popular government programs deeply, including the Pentagon, B. piling up debt for those coming after the boomer generation to pay.

Such an "in depth" look should not have to be expensive, surely 100's of colleges have detailed data and Perot-like charts already in Power-Point format and the 12 years of debt building that took place during the Reagan and Bush I admins were readily available.

News orgs could also do a far better job on local news. for example this week Cspan carried discussion in which statisticians who had really worked to compare how our schools are doing by comparison to others and those abroad. (It's not an easy task as all use differing systems, sampling ages and the like.) We, instead, get pap often cherry picked to fit a headline: SAT scores falling......... ( yeah, because drop out rates fell and more marginal students took the test) or NAEP scores "above average" which seems the case for every state were we to go by our local newspapers.

Then there is the question of "What is news?" of interest? From reading the papers I know little of Canada or Mexico and how their problems or goals relate to our own. All the discussion of energy problems but no mention of Mexico's sugar industry being on its back (apparently due to NAFTA-WTO or other treaty problems) so while we subsidize corn farmers to make ethanol that has about a 1:1 benefit ratio, isn't there and easy story to be written about having Mexico contribute to the making of our ethanol with cane sugar being an eight times better source of ethanol than is corn?

I've never seen the writings of Osama bin Laden printed in any newspaper though the thoughts of our #1 enemy should be of interest to many. Couldn't today's college educated journalists do better than to allow the President to propagandize that "they are evildoers and want to kill us all?"

News of interest to younger voters? With "boomer" aged Congress, Pres, and most in positions of power, it seems rare to find any mention of the generational inequity of tax breaks for high earners of boomer age and nothing but more debt being left for those of the younger generations. I suppose the editors too are boomers; so perhaps papers should have some youthful editors, considering the youthfulness of most of the bloggers to which they are losing their readers.

Haven't our domestic automakers made a similar mistake? Happily building profitable but costly gas hogging SUV's largely for the boomer generation most of whom are now done with the suburban kid raising phase, so even were fuel prices to moderate the product in demand would look more like the offerings of Honda, Toyota, Subaru et al?

Surely a news special under the headline "While America snoozes......." would be read by all.

Saint Darwin Assissi's cat

Nothing is as wonderful as seeing Meg Ryan peeking over the pages of the NYT while sipping breakfast coffee in come Manhattan restaurant waiting on Mr. Wonderful. Or holding and perusing one's first pinkish colored paper called "The Financial Times." Or feeling really important when seeing a blond headed, well built handsome senior reading "The Wall Street Journal" at breakfast in Wright Quad's cafeteria at Indiana University. Or seeing copies of a Korean magazine's cover featuring President Clinton's nude body with Monica Lewinsky's head pasted upon his private parts, in every subway newstand in Seoul, South Korea. Or, while bored in line at the grocery, glancing at the tawdry "STAR" declaring Brad has left Angie. While Judge Posner has written, once again, a thoroughly thought provoking post, alerting us to marginal and fixed costs, he cannot illuminate or tame the emotional nature of man. Until the Internet can satisfy our emotional souls in a way that newspapers have and continue to do so, intellectual print product may (I had 'will' there and learned from US Bankruptcy Court Southern District Federal Judge Frank J. Otte that the word MAY is always preferable to will, can, should) not disappear. There is nothing so rewarding as being counted as a commentator to this Blog and to watch Bloggingheads.TV, access, immediately, CNN.com and Fox News (to compare the liberal versus the conservative), pull up the NYT editorial page to read Maureen Dowd, read previews and reviews of Judge Posner's books on Amazon.com, read Professor Becker's bio on Wikipedia and the GRANDDADDYANDMOMMY of them all is Refdesk.com.....Asta! PS Judge Posner's examples were right on point to demonstrate what bundling is ...and his choice of analogy reaches newbies and not so newbies.....

Marecek

Great post, with Judge Posner's usual perceptive insights. I would just have one comment to make about one of his points - namely the distinction between fact and opinion. Posner disputes the notion that webifying news services will lead to people becoming shielded from views conflicting with their own already accepted views. Posner appears to believe that does not matter because the vital facts will always get to them. I cannot agree with this assessment. Okay, few people are going to remain unaware of major events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall or 9/11. I think a very clear problem, however, is that less significant events (and ones that go into finetuning our opinions on many matters) don't necessarily filter down to all audiences. It is in this respect that the different perspectives of various web-information sources is crucial - different sources will inform us of, and give prominence to, different facts. Posner's perspective assumes that there are a limited set of newsworthy facts which we are all aware of, but that is not the case. One of the main functions that information providers perform (and the reason why it is dangerous to rely upon them unconditionally) is that of sifting through the huge amount of information that comes along on an average day and deciding which is "newsworthy". This is necessary both because of viewers' limited ability to imbibe information and limited attention span and by the inherent limits on newsgathering and reporting (and unfortunately, for commercial and competitive reasons, a great deal of the space is reserved for "infotainment"). All you have to do is compare newspapers or web sites from different countries and you will see how differently the world is perceived, and to what extent there is a differing assessment as to which facts are significant.

Kimball Corson

Spoken like a true man who hopes the practice reading of newspapers continues to support the sale of books, his own with their royalties included. There's no money in legal opinions.

juston

No! Newspapers are not doomed. They will be around for at least another century or so. This has been talked about before and many experts agree with you. However, I don't think the technology we have at this time or in the near future will doom the newspaper. I would be more concerned about the future generations lack of reading or keeping up with what's happening in the world over printed newspapers. As long as there is an interest in reading and news is in demand, there will be printed newspapers. Think about this for a minute. Almost everyone likes to read while waiting on something or someone. Most people read during breaks, waiting on a Dr., in an airplane terminal, flying on an airplane and etc... There is just not enough WiFi terminals or locations around at this time. The lack of these terminals and the fact that there are millions of Americans who still don't own a laptop or have phones with Internet access. These Americans still have a need for news and will happily pick up a paper to get it.

Thomas

Sell Italian bonds. Italian public debt has reached a record high at 1646,7 billion euros.It is worse than 1992 when the country went very near to declare default(insolvency)

Thomas

Sell Italian bonds. Italian public debt has reached a record high at 1646,7 billion euros.It is worse than 1992 when the country went very near to declare default(insolvency)

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Anonymous

interesting posting.very persuasive

Anonymous

Excellent content sir. i am in full agreement with you that newsparper never loose its status in the history. we can't replace it with electronic ones.
----------------ED Hardy,abercrombie and fith

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