Monday, January 09, 2006

When You Put It That Way....

"But it is hard to believe that there will be room in the economy for delivering news by the Rube Goldberg process described above."

Slate writer Michael Kinsley has an amusing description of the "Rube Goldberg process" whereby print newspapers end up on our breakfast tables, in a recent article, "Extra! Extra! The Future of Newspapers." But it is a slightly discomfiting amusement because the process and end product, as he describes it, does now seem a bit absurd, as if we did it this way because we couldn't think of a better way to do it. Will print book publishing seem this way too?


Anonymous said...

Is he not joking? he must be. If that's how he describes it, why not just get a radio and put it on the table over breakfast. I mean come on, how could he even thought of it? Hiring someone to deliver newspapers to you on your breakfast table then read it outloud to you is a stupid Idea.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing Kinsley's being more than a bit disengenuous. Or maybe not. Maybe he doesn't understand that many mainstream news and entertainment venues were NOT started with the intention to bring news to his breakfast table; but that the news and entertainment is bait to lure him into dragging advertisements to his breakfast table. The fact that he will go less and less far to do so is because there are less frictive methods for delivering ads into his brain now; ones of which he is more favorably disposed to obeying the Siren lures.

The history of advertising (which I teach) is a history of how mainstream content has been created to give advertisers a place to put their ads, not the other way around. It's not like millions of people were merrily paying full-boat for tons of ad-free periodicals and newspapers for years, and then advertisers suddenly got wind of the available pipeline and said, "Gee. We could sure use this space." Nope. There was unused bandwidth. For example, nobody was doing much of anything, news or entertainment wise, on radio until sponsors stepped in and hosted shows themselves. Soap-operas are the most famous example, and they were literally invented, created, written and produced mainly by advertising agencies for their clients.

So... the fact that it seems convoluted to Kinsley is because he's looking at it from the fish's point of view: somebody went to all the trouble to buy a rod and reel, dig up some worms, drive to the river, sit in a camp-chair, hook a worm, dangle it in the water, swirl it around for an hour or two... all so that I could bite down on it? How absurd! But from the fisherman's point POV? Tasty w/ chips and vinegar.

[Note: today's random word verification for my comment is "jugash." Don't know why I'm mentioning it, but it's totally cracking me up]

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