Nytimes demise of dating

Despite their quarrels with the news, they recognize that reliable news is important. The other is what’s actually happening: The amount of news that’s being created has been increased by a hundredfold over the last five years. And at least three big news players — The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Financial Times — all have built emerging models that rely substantially more on consumers paying for their digital products than merely relying on digital advertising.

If news isn’t credible, it loses its ability to persuade. Other legacy news businesses — CNN, Fox News, CBS’s 60 Minutes to name three — also continue to operate with highly profitable margins.

And as such, it is a phenomenon worthy of a continual effort to understand its causes, its effects, and its possible outcomes.

With that in mind, we created this oral history project — curated at Harvard by the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy in conjunction with Nieman Journalism Lab — to document the experiences of a broad group of primary participants, some of whom were there at the beginning of the transformation (a time we judge to be some 35 years ago, long before the advent of the World Wide Web) and some of whom have only recently arrived but are profoundly affecting the force and direction of the current that is washing away the foundations of the legacy news media business.

Who’s going to replace the watchdog function at city hall traditionally provided by healthy metro newspapers?

That law states, “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.” Or, as Frank Rich put it in an April 2013 column for New York magazine: “We didn’t realize we were up against change so sweeping as the building of the transcontinental railroad or the invention of electricity [sic].” Hyperbolic as that may sound, it probably isn’t an overstatement.

As you will see over and over in this compilation of recollections going back many years, numerous editors and business executives in the employ of legacy news media companies set out to harness new technologies that would revolutionize the delivery of news.

But (to get out of the sea for a moment) they were rewarded more as pioneers (who are often the first to perish) than as settlers (who eventually claim the new land).

In some cases, a disruptive force has been aggregation (think The Huffington Post or Google News), while in others it has been disaggregation (Politico is only about politics; is only about cars).

In the case of classified advertising the disruption was almost just a stray bullet; programmer Craig Newmark basically set out seeking a way for people to share information about local events, not kill an industry.

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