Langeveld: Newspaper downturn caused by shift in American interests, not by Web

Martin Langeveld at the Nieman Journalism Lab writes that the real cause of the woes facing the newspaper industry is not the Web. Rather, it is the shifting and expanding American attention span.

Langeveld writes that the heyday of newspapers coincided with periods of the 20th century in which Americans were united in their passions and interests — the Great Depression, World War II, Korea, Vietnam. But the decades after have seen a boom in the number of luxuries and options available to Americans. Instead of every citizen focusing on the same issues, our range of interests has exploded.

It’s no wonder, then, that we can’t get more people to read the newspaper these days; there’s just not enough column inches to appeal to everyone.

The Web, Langeveld says, only accelerated this death spiral for the industry. It did not cause the spiral in the first place.

His advice to the news industry:

To have even a chance of survival, the mindset of the industry needs to become: We are in the business of publishing information content continuously on our web sites; every 24 hours (for now, and this may ultimately change to once or twice weekly) we gather some of that information into a printed product and distribute it, but our business is focused on and driven by our online operations.


White House Web site uses Creative Commons license


Pursuant to federal law, government-produced materials appearing on this site are not copyright protected. The United States Government may receive and hold copyrights transferred to it by assignment, bequest, or otherwise.

Except where otherwise noted, third-party content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Visitors to this website agree to grant a non-exclusive, irrevocable, royalty-free license to the rest of the world for their submissions to under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Good for the Creative Commons!

Once more on the Twitter authority thing

This passage comes from Dan Gillmor’s “Principles for a New Media Literacy,” originally published as part of the Media Re:public project at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard. I think it unwittingly provides a great example of why “number of followers” is a poor gauge of authority on Twitter (and any social networking site).

We have come to learn that the tabloid’s front-page headline about Barack Obama’s alien love child via a Martian mate is almost certainly false, despite the fact that the publication sells millions of copies each week. We know that popularity in the traditional media world is not a proxy for quality.

Original here

Gillmor is spot on. The number of people who buy your magazine or click onto your Web site or add you on Twitter is not a measure of your authority or quality, in the print world or in the digital one.

In which the author summarizes the authority-based tweet debate and then finds something new to write about

Well, the issue of authority-based searching on Twitter is here to stay, even though Loic Le Meur, the guy who started all of this by asking for some sort of authority search feature on his blog, has amended his opinion. He points out now that “authority” was a poor word choice that resulted from the fact that he speaks French first and English second.

Given this amendment, I’d like to say that authority-based Twitter searching is nothing more than an academic exercise, debated by bloggers across the Web in their posts and in their comments on other people’s posts. But I cannot say that because at least two developers have come out with sites to search Twitter based on the number of followers that users have.

These two new sites are Twitority and Twithority. Twitority’s tagline says “Authority based twitter search,” and Twithority’s says “Twitter Search by — Authority.” Both of those sites are still sticking by the word authority, though I wonder how long that will last when the discussion hasn’t yet managed to come up with a solid definition of authority as it pertains to Twitter. (The comments in TechCrunch’s latest on the subject offers some good ideas, though.)

Of course, not everybody cares about Twitter and any authority its users might derive from their status as Twitter users. On TechCrunch’s , commenter Scott C. writes:

Because “twittering” makes NO SENSE. It’s somewhere between a text message, an instant message and an email…and there’s just no reason to have it. It’s sortof like “micro blogging” via Tumblr. You either write nothing or something. Anything inbetween is ultimately a waste of time and energy.

The commenters on that TC post, some of them at least, see Twitter as just another fad, a “mutual admiration society” within “the largest echo chamber in all of tech,” that is, TechCrunch itself.

Kara Swisher at the Wall Street Journal’s “All Things Digital” blog goes into a little more detail about the perceived importance of Twitter.

I think, though, the real story is the endless echo chamber of Silicon Valley that seems to persist in overestimating the meaning of Twitter, especially compared to so much more that is going on in the tech industry.

With only about six million registered users (with a much lower number of active ones), Twitter gets written about as if it were a mover and shaker extraordinaire, instead of just being what it is: An interesting status-alert start-up that makes zero revenues and turned down a very large buyout offer from another once-too-overhyped start-up (Facebook).

Well, after yet another week in the real world, I am here to tell you, precious few people still have any clue what Twitter is or how it works.

Is Twitter’s importance overrated? Maybe, but I think a larger and more culturally important issue is highlighted by one of the comments on Swisher’s post.

Continue reading “In which the author summarizes the authority-based tweet debate and then finds something new to write about”

Online authority debate centering on Twitter

Having a lot of followers on Twitter doesn’t make you an authority. That’s the message from Jeff Jarvis and John Naughton, who both posted to their blogs recently about whether Twitter should rank tweets by some measure of “authority.” Both of them are responding to another post by Loïc Le Meur that calls for search by authority.

I’m in the process of reading these three articles now, and I’ll work on reading others that pop up via Google Alerts. Expect me back with a highly regurgitative summary in a day or two.

Edit: Found another one, thanks to the comments on Le Meur’s post. Robert Scoble points us to this post at TechCrunch.

Brief opinion: ISPs and the RIAA

Maybe it’s just my uninformed opinion, but Internet service providers should not be held accountable for what sorts of information flows over their networks.

Several analogies have popped up online in comments about this, especially in comments on RIAA lawsuit stories. For example, toll booth operators are not held liable for illegal driving that takes place on the roads they monitor.

The point is this: those who provide access to networks (of whatever kind) aren’t responsible for policing those networks. They are responsible for providing access to the networks.

Another thing: Yes, pirating music and movies is illegal. Yes, the pirates should be sued or otherwise held accountable for their crimes. But while we, a a society, a compelled to live within the bounds of the law, or face punishment, we are not compelled to help enforce that law. ISPs are run by private individuals and are usually private companies. They should not be compelled to enforce the law any more than a single citizen should be.