Why Huffington and Craigslist are killing the newspaper.
Craigslist is one of two phenomena of the internet responsible for the slaughter of the newspaper industry. And although founder of Craigslist, Craig Newark, believes that this isn't so, the evidence is staggering. For those that aren't familiar with this site (and if you aren't I suggest you update yourself on the times) Craigslist is practically a classified ads site, where users can sell, buy, trade junk, find jobs and lovers (etc, etc) absolutely free. Craigslist, PER MONTH -- rakes in a hefty 5 billion paid views. This has an enormous impact on the newspaper industry, whose main revenue comes from traditional classified ads and advertising. Newark justifies his disbelief by suggesting that Craigslist doesn't exactly carry "traditional" classifieds, meaning you wouldn't normally find them in newspapers. However I find that extremely difficult to believe. I've seen ads for pets, cars, roommates on Craigslist, all of which would have been traditionally shown in newspapers (for a minimal fee of course).
Yet If this sheer slaughter wasn't bad enough, lets examine Huffington Post (and by Huffington Post, I refer to all "news hubs" [mediators of media information/hyperlinkers]). You may remember that I briefly discussed that a newspaper's main source of revenue comes from the classified ads and advertisement. While Craigslist has taken care of the classifieds, these aggregate mediums have taken from newspapers their advertisement. We have to keep in mind here that although readership in newspapers has declined, the need for news has increased, and people are turning to these instantaneous "clicky" sites more often for zero costs. Therefore these sites are becoming increasingly trafficked as our culture moves to a more liberal society offering the perfect breeding grounds for advertisers.
So we can't blame advertisers themselves, because c'mon, your advertisement accessible freely to millions of online users? They'd be fired for not gobbling up the steal. And we can't blame culture for exploiting the awesome free-ness and instantaneous-ness that is the internet. Where does this leave the newspaper? Six feet under.
Right now you might be thinking, so what? Who cares? Well you should. There are serious dangers that lie ahead if newspapers go under. Although there's been a decline in the readership of newspapers, they still remain the primary source of information for internet news hubs. Newspapers do the reporting. Google and yahoo don't, blogs sure the heck don't and the list continues. (If you don't believe me, believe the guy who said it -- John Carol ex-editor of the LA Times and now Harvard Professor). Face it technological world, despite a newspaper "obsolete" nature. they are the lone soldiers of professional, paid reporting subject to rigorous editing and ethics (and therefore the only trustworthy). It's really not rocket science, you can't get the story in Baghdad without paying the reporters to get there. Your precious free internet can't provide that (or at least refuses to at this time). Without newspapers, our society has no primary source of information, no source of trust and no way to effectively function as a social capital.
Now that we know what the problem is, and why is comes with a serious danger, what can we do about this? Luckily this very problem is being recognized and discussed. There appear to be three main solutions. One stems from Walter Isaacson and an idea of "Microcharges". Think Itunes but with newstories. Another we discussed in New Media and Culture is paying specific journalists to cover certain stories of the payers interest (but already you can see the problems that could arise with both of these). And third seems to be the most sensible, the aggregate news hubs should pay licensing fees to the newspaper industries that provide them their information.
Craigslist however, will continue to snatch traditional classifieds, because well, there is no solution to their contribution to the murder of the newspaper.