Can newspapers survive the digital revolution?
Peter Rojas is the cofounder and editor-in-chief of Engadget, which is a daily weblog covering gadgets, consumer electronics and personal technology. He is also the cofounder of Joystiq, a weblog which covers video games. Rojas has worked as a contributing editor at Cargo, an editor-at-large at Sync, a technology editor of VMan, and a columnist for The Guardian, writing on emerging technology. He is a frequent contributor to a variety of publications both on- and off-line and appears on radio and television regularly as a technology commenter. Rojas was educated at Harvard University and the University of Sussex. He lives in New York City.
Question: Can newspapers survive the digital revolution?
Peter Rojas: Well I think . . . I get asked about newspapers a lot. And I’ve written for newspapers. I’ve written for the New York Times. And I actually do love, you know, newspapers. I love newspapers and magazines. I subscribe to like maybe 20 different magazines, which I devour. I love . . . You know one of my favorite things to do is I try to, you know, read the New Yorker, or the Economist, or you know Harpers or whatever for about an hour before I go to bed every night. Which I . . . I really like to be able to get away from looking at an LCD screen all day. But you know they’re going to have to change. And the thing is they are changing. And the question is are they gonna change quickly enough? And I don’t have . . . I don’t know. I mean I think that, you know, the answer isn’t just launching a bunch of blogs. It’s a lot more complicated than that. And I think that . . . that newspapers are gonna have to get used to a world where things are a little bit leaner. And you know the cost of producing content in a lot of respects have fallen. I mean you know the cost of publishing has really fallen. That’s what enabled, you know, me to do blogs was that I didn’t need . . When I was at Red Herring, we spent a million dollars to build an online publishing system for RedHerring.com. And I was able to create something with roughly equivalent functionality for like $150 bucks. And so to see that . . . that sort of huge of a . . . of a drop in the cost of doing something . . . and that’s sort of been the story of . . . I mean you know when people talk about Web 2.0, I mean to me the real story is that the cost of doing all these things, whether it was like publishing, you know, video online or, you know, publishing text, or all these, you know, things, the cost of doing all that stuff has really dropped. And you know for newspapers, their . . . their real cost is . . . has not just been in the publishing platforms or the cost of like printing paper. It’s really in the human talent that is out there. And one of the things that blogs and other socially driven, like you know, news and information sites . . . whether it’s like Digg, or Propel It, or ReadIt, or Engadget or whatever are all good at doing is sort of aggregating a lot of stuff from across the Internet and presenting it in some sort of useful fashion; whether it’s by having editors pick stuff or having, you know, readers vote on what they find interesting. And I think for newspapers it’s tough because they’re . . . they’re in the, you know . . . They have a . . . For them it’s not about aggregating exactly. It’s about, you know, creating, and then editing, and then editing again, and then publishing. And I think they’re . . . they’re gonna have to live in a world that’s a little bit . . . That has sort of a sliding . . . like a kind of a continuum from, you know . . . that includes what they’re doing, but also is aggregating and making sense of the other stuff that’s out there. And I don’t necessarily have a lot of good advice. I mean I know . . . Maybe you guys have interviewed Jeff Jarvis, who is sort of a leading light in this area.
Recorded on: 10/2/07
It's a question of available human talent and the cost of production, Rojas says.