Toldyaso Dept.: The commentariat has noticed the financial pit that awaits the New York Times, leading to a curious role reversal. Michael Hirschorn of The Atlantic takes a post-apocalyptic view, while conservative Jules Crittenden bemoans the impended debacle. More typically, Steven Den Beste emerges from anime gazing to write an epitaph:
The big reason you aren't seeing the public shedding many tears over the demise of the NYT is that we all know that they've dug their own grave. The impending demise of the NYT isn't tragedy, it's justice.
What he said. Mind you, I don't think the NYT will actually fold up in one step, but at least the Sulzberger family's equity and control is going to be largely or completely washed out. Could the Times regain some part of its former position when Pinch is finally walked out the door? We'll see.
Buzzword Heat Death. Kudos to Jeff Nolan for calling BS on the viability of many so-called Web 2.0 startups. The steadily dropping capital costs of creating Web-based component software has meant that it's easy to get something of the sort started, resulting in an over-crowded marketplace and little differentiation. Many Web 2.0 startups built on underpants gnomes business models are running into unsurprising viability and exit problems in a hostile capital and credit environment. Jeff may be right in tagging Michael Arrington as one of the least critical promoters of the meme, but he shouldn't have the whole albatross hung round his neck: I seem to recall John Battelle, Tim O'Reilly and a few others ginning it up to create a trade show / conference sized aggregation of post dot-com innovations.
I Know, For I Was There. Jack Shafer has a worthwhile article at Slate on the newspapers' multiple tries at online presences that still left them missing the boat. He nails two core issues: The newspapers were reacting defensively to perceived technology threats, and stepped back each time the threat proved minimal, leaving them unprepared when it finally became mortal. Second, the content and platforms used were always "non-generative" in the sense that creation and provisioning was always centrally controlled. That's correct as far as it goes. When I was involved with CompuServe, putting up user interfaces and content involved writing code, and deploying it onto central servers one at a time. There were no such things as user-accessible markup or distributed data centers on a routed network. What he misses, though, is that content was never central to even early online services. The use of person-to-person communications functions - e-mail, chat, bulletin boards and file libraries - was the greatest predictor of customer loyalty and driver of revenue, even then. With their "Content is King" attitude, newspapers missed the fact that even the early online service business relied on what we'd now call "community". They still haven't learned it.