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In waiting too long to write this post, some of the details may have faded a little bit for me, but I’ll do my best to run through some of the things I found most interesting about journalist Walter Pincus’s talk in RAJ last week.

What surprised me the most about the basic premise of his argument was this, and I hope I didn’t misinterpret it.  In giving a talk about how an industry under pressure like newspapers will survive, I thought it would sort of be like “here’s what newspapers need to do/change in order to survive”.  Instead, and I have no grounds to agree or disagree with this, it seemed like he was saying “if newspapers go on as they have been, with a few minor changes (most of them harkening back to the ‘good ol days’), the nature of the industry and its economics will allow them to survive without that much effort”.  This seemed to be founded on his belief, a bit out of touch in my opinion, that this whole ‘internet journalism’ thing is just a ‘fad’, and people only really buy into it because it’s ‘jazzy’ (his word, not mine).  And a lot of his argument hinged on the fact that people haven’t really found a good model for making money in online advertising yet.  But we are exceptionally good at figuring out how to make money out of just about anything, so I would guess that will come soon, don’t you think?

Mark did a good job summing up his ideas about newspapers ‘slimming down’, and I agree with him in that respect, so I won’t say too much about it.  But one of my favorite things about Pincus’ argument was a more general point he made, sort of about ‘slimming down’ in another respect.  He mentioned both the newspaper business and related it to the auto industry, but I think his point about businesses needing to return to a more sustainable business model, with lower expectations (maybe?) applies to many of our industries, especially in publishing — newspapers, record labels, film and tv studios, etc.  As in, they need to face the fact that they might not find a way to make the bucketloads of money they did in their heyday, and this seems to me to tie quite neatly back into some of the stuff Lessig talked about with the record industry refusing to find a compromised middle ground when it comes to digital music.  I couldn’t agree more with this, but I wonder if this shift in mentality is possible for the greed-fueled gears of capitalism.  It seems like this will have a large role in our country’s economic fate.

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