Friday, January 30, 2009

In 2008, The Internet Overtook Newspapers For News

This is a chart from a December 2008 Pew Research Center study on where Americans get their news. For this first time, the internet overtook print newspapers as a news source for Americans.

Both online and print news still lag behind television, which is American's primary source for news. However, this is not so for younger generations, where the internet equals television as a news source, and will soon overtake it, much as it has with newspapers. From the same study:

"For young people, however, the internet now rivals television as a main source of national and international news. Nearly six-in-ten Americans younger than 30 (59%) say they get most of their national and international news online; an identical percentage cites television. In September 2007, twice as many young people said they relied mostly on television for news than mentioned the internet (68% vs. 34%)"

For Pew's entire report, look here.

Seattle's City Council Clearly Behind The Curve In The Digital Age

This week the Seattle City Council made it their business to address the possible closure of The Seattle PI. Cory Bergman from Lost Remote, a great media blog I just stumbled upon this morning, has a fantastic summary of the public city council forum about this very topic here. Beyond the summary, Bergman adds his own viewpoint, which is very similar to what I've been saying all week:

While I applaud Licata for tackling the complex topic — and giving people a forum to talk about it — I about fell out of my chair while I watched the live stream of the event at my desk. The vast majority of the discussion missed the point, straying into common misconceptions and old-school thinking about journalism in a new connected world.

There's a lot more meat to Bergman's account and he adeptly shows through his argument how much better of a grasp he has on the situation than the Seattle City Council (as do other local bloggers like and, like when he states what should be obvious to anyone following media trends over the past few years:

What needs saving is journalism, not newspapers. Arguing about saving newspapers and their large staffs misses the point: their business model is antiquated and did not adapt to a new reality. So let’s figure out how to create new sustainable business models that result in quality local journalism. Let’s think of ways to reinvent newspapers from the ground up online. Let’s focus our energy there instead of hearing ourselves talk about the institution of journalism and the good old days.

Oh, and in case you are questioning Bergman's insight of the situation and think Licata and other council members might be more in tune with news media publishing in today's world, Bergman's day job is as Director of Business Development for I highly suggest you follow that link above for the full article, it's good reading.

Seattle Times Bankruptcy Rumors Might Be Blessing In Disguise for PI

I've been blogging all week about the death of daily newspapers and how I'm firmly convinced Seattle can no longer be a two-paper town. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is up for sale and if it isn't bought, Hearst has threatened to shut it down. In yet another twist, The Stranger's blog Slog is reporting The Seattle Times may be filing for bankruptcy soon:

On Wednesday, worries that the dominant Seattle daily may soon file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection crept out into the open when an administrator for the union that represents Times employees mentioned the possibility in an e-mail to union members.

"Within the Guild we have been preparing for a number of worst-case scenarios, including the possibility that the Times might enter the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process," wrote Liz Brown, administrator for the union, the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild.

Read the full article here.

Interesting, just yesterday I was saying that it's too bad it can't be the Seattle Times that's failing, rather than The Post-Intelligencer, but it turns out both papers may be failing! I think this only goes to hammer home the idea that Seattle cannot support two papers. And the survival of one may boil down to The Times waiting for The PI to fail, or investors buying The PI and hoping to outlast The Times. Either way, it's not a good time to be owning or buying a Seattle daily newspaper.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

More on the Death of Print

I read a lot about the publishing industry, the media and the so-called death of print, that's one of the reasons I really think Seattle can no longer support two daily newspapers in print. Too bad it can't be the Seattle Times that's failing, rather than The Post-Intelligencer, but some day soon, one of them will have to go.

For some historical perspective, here's a pretty funny news story from 1981 Icki posted a link to. It gives the newspaper's perspective of the coming online revolution very early on. Their outdated computers, modems, use of old school technology and some of their ideas are all pretty funny. What's most relevant in the discussion, though, is to realize newspapers have been working towards having people read their content online for over twenty eight years, as well as foreseeing an end to print editions:

In the debate on the death of print, it's important to separate books from serials (newspapers, journals and magazines). While electronic book reading is definitely on the rise thanks to the Kindle and the Sony Reader, print book reading has actually risen as well in the American adult population for the first time since declining steadily from 1982. Yay books!

But while book reading has gone up, newspaper and magazine reading continues to plummet, generally at a rate of around 3% per year. Well, I should re-state this, because the rates aren't really plummeting, the format is changing, and that's something people bemoaning the death of print often fail to realize. Print readership is dropping as online news and entertainment is rising, readership overall isn't changing. And there are bigger problems facing a newspaper today, ss print readership dwindles, they also face rising printing rates and less advertising revenue. In 2007 alone, the Newspaper Association of America reported a 9.4% drop in ad revenues to $42 billion, compared to the previous year. This was the biggest drop in revenue since 1950... and in the same period internet ad revenues grew 18.8%. The 2008 figures aren't out yet, but I would expect with an expected 3% or more drop in readership and a poor economy, we might see an even bigger drop in ad revenue. Two years of record ad revenue drops are really hurting the newspaper industry. It's becoming more and more a question of when they will fail, rather than if they will fail. To slow the death of daily print newspapers, they've done what they have to to survive. This includes consolidating, downsizing staff, and shrinking their number of pages and print run sizes. But eventually, even this won't work, especially in towns with two daily newspapers competing for an ever shrinking number of readers and advertisers.

Comscore, a company that monitors the digital world, has done studies on print vs. online readers of news. A March 2008 study reported "Heavy print newspaper readers show a strong skew towards older age segments, while the non-newspaper reader segments skew younger. Those age 65 and older are nearly 3 times more likely than average to read the print edition of newspapers 6 times per week, while those age 18-24 are 38 percent more likely than average to not read a print newspaper at all during a typical week."

I hate to harp on Nick Licata more after yesterday's rant based on some misleading information from KOMO news, but he was quoted saying "When we eliminate newspapers, we're essentially dumbing down democracy... Democracy is based on knowledge. If you limit the access to knowledge, you're going to get bad decisions. Or you're going to have decisions based on spur-of-the moment emotions, based on fears, based on sort of panic situations." Comscore's data shows exactly the opposite to be true, the death of print newspapers does not dumb down the population at all. It shows not only do print newspaper readers also read online news, but non-newspaper readers are actually heavier news consumers, they just consume news in a digital format. The death of print doesn't mean we have less access to knowledge, in fact, I'd argue in the digital era, we actually have more access to knowledge, more up-to-date data and news, and quicker 24/7 access to it then any generation before us.

More from the Comscore report:
“Non-newspaper readers are a particularly important segment to reach because they are heavier than average news consumers – they just prefer to consume it in a digital format ... that they are receptive to print, TV, and Internet news brands indicates a broad opportunity online, but the brands that will ultimately win over these key news consumers are the ones that successfully integrate cutting edge digital content with high quality journalism.”

Yes, it's a different world. With the main audience for the daily paper trending 65 and older, and getting older, the days of newspapers are surely numbered. For older folks not realizing how much data we have at our fingertips, how easy it is to access it, and how much the world has changed for younger generations, I highly suggest checking out many of the in-depth articles, news stories and books that have been written about it... most of which, you can find on the Web.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Def Con Burly

This is Seattle band Def Con Burly playing at Funhouse last month. I don't know much about them beyond they are a Hate City band, with their crowd of a dozen guys all up front going apeshit over them. They were super sloppy and drunk and played fast punk, I'd like to hear an actual recording to have a clue what they actually sound like. The singer was entertaining for a few songs, he gave himself a wedgie and ripped his own underpants off, jumped around a lot, and a birthday cake was thrown everywhere at some point, covering the floor with sugary frosting, making everyone slip and fall for the rest of the night. Oh, bonus points for having "Unfuckwithable" tattooed across his belly!

An Orwellian Twist To The Death of Print

In George Orwell's classic novel "1984," our tragic hero Winston Smith works for the totalitarian government in the records department of the Ministry of Truth. Smith spends his days at work rewriting newspaper articles and books for the government, to better fit their message to the masses. The image Orwell invokes is of a massive overreaching government that retains it's power by owning and controlling the media, the banks, and stores, along with always trying to keep the populace united with some dubious foreign war.

Americans often reference "1984" when they see government overreaching beyond its role and extending its involvement in our lives far more than it ever should. It's only natural, for many of the scenarios from the book have manifested into reality. We have Orwellian nightmares at the thought of security cameras watching our every move, the Federal government buying a share in national banks, bailouts of national and multinational companies, and any attempt by the government to control the media. For right wing Republicans, they see it as a fear of socialism, with an inefficient government usurping the role of private enterprise. For lefty/liberal folks like me, it's a fear of an all powerful right wing leaning government interfering in our private lives and restricting our rights and freedom. In either case, this healthy fear of a powerful government, so amazingly explored by Orwell back in 1948, has worked to help limit the power of government in our lives.

In Seattle we have two local newspapers, both struggling in poorer economic times in an industry that is rapidly being replaced by a new medium. The death of print will be slow and long, but the first casualties have already fallen. The biggest die off is being seen with print serials; newspapers and magazines. The Seattle Times, The Stranger, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer and The Seattle Weekly have all been struggling. We've seen their page counts and print runs shrink in size, it's really quite sad.

It's becoming a digital world, and the reality is, print serials are going to have a much smaller place in it. Hell, they already do. And that scenario, for many people, is hard to face--especially for older people that grew up reading newspapers and magazines (unlike today's youth). Believe me, I know this first hand. When Tablet, the magazine my friends and I published, faced dwindling advertising revenues and ever-increasing print costs, we began to slowly accumulate debt. We struggled for years with it before finally realizing our business model wasn't working and we'd eventually have to not only pull the plug on our dreams of publishing our own independent magazine, but also the dreams of hundreds of writers, photographers, artists, proofreaders, editors and volunteers who were part of a cool community of people all working towards the same goal. Finally we stopped when we knew we could no longer afford to publish, and three years later we are still paying off the debt from the venture.

You're probably asking yourself now where I'm going with this. First introducing my distaste for government owned media through the example of "1984," then talking about the struggling local media in Seattle, and finally discussing my own publishing experience and knowing when to pull the plug. I'm talking about a number of issues that have been running through my head lately about the death of print, but it was all brought to light by the news stories surrounding the last dying gasps of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The Hearst Corporation, who owns The PI, announced a few months ago that the paper was up for sale. The clincher to the announcement was that Hearst would shut down the paper if it didn't find a buyer. Many Seattlelites were up in arms, "Seattle needs two papers for more balanced and fair news!" they exclaimed. I think underlying feeling, though, was a liberal town like Seattle shouldn't lose it's more liberal and news-oriented paper. Let's face it, The Seattle Times has a lot more fluff pieces and leans to the right, left wing Seattle wouldn't be up in arms if that was the paper that was facing closure.

Interesting in the debate to me is not how loud and desperate the voices are to save The PI, but how few there are. Most people just don't care or already expected it. Times certainly have changed, newspapers are failing all over the country, I think people realize Seattle can't support two daily papers anymore. And young people just don't read the newspaper, they get their news from TV and the Web. As far as I'm concerned, whether The PI fails now, or gets bought and fails three years from now, it's future is clear. The only way it would survive is if it was the only game in town, and the privately-owned Seattle Times isn't going anywhere.

The most ludicrous and desperate attempt to save The PI surfaced yesterday from City Counsel member Nick Licata. Normally a pretty smart guy, Licata, according to KOMO 4 News, has proposed the idea of a city government buy the paper. What? Are you kidding me? Struggling economy/there's no way we can afford it issues aside, if there is one thing most on the left and right can agree on, it's that the government should not own the media. Fair and balanced news does not come from the government. To me the thought of a government-owned paper is like giving the finger to democracy and the independent media. Licata, however, disagrees. He says, "When we eliminate newspapers, we're essentially dumbing down democracy. Democracy is based on knowledge. If you limit the access to knowledge, you're going to get bad decisions. Or you're going to have decisions based on spur-of-the moment emotions, based on fears, based on sort of panic situations."

Uh, I hate to break it to Nick Licata and his Orwellian scenario of government owned media, but... You're old! You didn't grow up with computers and the Web like the last couple generations. The model in which news is delivered has changed. Our "access to knowledge" isn't limited by not having the opportunity to pay for day old news delivered to our doorstep on an environmentally wasteful medium. We read news instantly when it happens on our desktop and phones, 24/7. Rather than being dumbed-down, we have access to ever-expanding network of data sources and an ever-increasing ability to process and filter it. We fact check news articles ourselves, hop from news story to database to blog for more information and a wider range of perspectives, and we let our own interests guide our news reading. It's a dynamic and different world for younger generations that just doesn't support the old print model anymore.

I, like Nick Licata, am nostalgic for the time when print was the main medium for news and we didn't spend countless hours online. I've spent twenty years of my life publishing zines, newspapers and magazines, print media and publishing are near and dear to my heart. But read the writing on the wall Nick. Desperate Orwellian measures like government takeovers will not save print newspapers in today's environment. Newspapers are being left behind in the digital world, either get with the times or get left behind with them.

Update: Lisa Herbold from Nick Licata's office contacted me to say the KOMO article I linked to "grossly misinterprets Nick's comments" and Licata has made no such formal proposal to counsel. So my outrage may have been misplaced, although it sure sounds like he was floating the idea. Licata hosted a public forum on the issue today, so more accurate and up-to-date news will follow. Lisa went on to say Licata is advocating public funding to buy the PI, but not government funding, under "a new model of ownership that is called a L3C." I'd love for more info on that plan... and still, I find myself wondering why government is getting involved at all. And I stick by my reasons why Seattle cannot support two daily papers in the digital age, it's a different world today.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Android Hero

Being a fan of Sci-Fi movies, a horribly underrepresented genre in film in my humble opinion, I'm willing to watch about every low-budget straight to video film just to satisfy my needs. This means I end up watching a lot of crap... but sometimes within the crap their are diamonds in the rough (Alien Raiders, Hardware, Outland), or a bad movie that has redeeming qualities (Night of the Comet, Logan's Run). And, for the life of me, I can't believe there was never a movie called Android Hero. Especially in that era of anime films like Robot Carnival where it seemed Japanese cartooners were totally in love with robot heroes and girlfriends. But I digress into my own Sci-Fi geekdom, Android Hero is one fucking awesome band name. And their a great band to boot!

Comprised of Jeff McNulty on vocals and guitar (Bloodhag, Birds of Prey), Matt McGillivray on drums (Flux Capacitors, Mea Culpa, Caught Red Handed), and Eric Carnell on bass (Treepeople, Audio Infidels, Zyklon B), Android Hero exemplify what an Am Rep band would be like in the 2000s. Take the heavy repetitive riffage and vocal stylings of a band like Helmet or Unsane, only update it with a little mathrock, shorten the songs, and bring a little bit of up methed-up Zeke-like speed and we have ourselves a winner. Heavy, catchy, pounding... you can almost hear our android hero pounding methodically on the drums or blasting out the guitar riffs. They've been doing is since 2006, so they got it down, good. Check out a few of their songs on MySpace here, or better yet, catch them in Seattle tonight at King Cobra with Spittin' Cobras and Steel Tigers of Death.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Vandemonium reunion show!

Vandemonium was formed in 1999 by a bunch of women who had no idea how to play music, but felt inspired by bands like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile and united by their love of vans. For four years they rocked around Seattle, most notably playing some kick ass Pho Bang shows. Recently the band started practicing again and this past weekend played a reunion show for guitarist Beth's 40th birthday. I'm not sure if they are going to do any more shows, but they were totally fun Friday night. Hear a few songs on their MySpace page.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

T.S.O.L. posts their new album on the Web for free!

Long Beach band True Sounds of Liberty are celebrating their 30th year as a band by offering, in conjunction with Hurley, free downloads of their new album. "Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Free Downloads" is like many TSOL albums, a mix of punk, deathrock, and dark pop. Download your zipped copy here today.