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JEFF JARVIS, author of Gutenberg the Geek (Amazon Publishing), Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live (Simon & Schuster, 2011) and What Would Google Do? (HarperCollins 2009),[…]

Newspapers are killing themselves by holding on to the past, says Jarvis.

Question: Is the Internet killing the newspaper?

Jeff Jarvis: It’s not the internet that’s killing the newspaper, it’s that newspapers are trying too hard to hold onto a past. The problem here is that there are new opportunities, newspapers have not seen, what they’re seeing instead is fear of change.

Every other industry in this country, in this world has to change because the internet. Why shouldn’t newspapers? Other industries that are smart are embracing this change. And newspapers are, out of fear, only beginning to. It doesn’t make any difference to me whether or not the printing press is getting used as long as the journalism continues.

I met Alan Rusbridger the editor of the Guardian not long ago and they had just spent 150 million dollars on new presses and he said very calmly, “Oh yes those are probably the last presses we’ll ever buy.” Now I can imagine an American publisher would say that and keel over at that moment. But Rusbridger realizes that what he’s continuing is the journalism and he’s got to find ways to make it continue in this new world.

It’s not going to be the same as it was. Newspapers were one-size-fits-all monopolies. Those days are over, the business has changed, the scale of the business has changed. But if they start thinking more collaboratively, if they start thinking more flexibly, I think journalism can actually grow.

Question: What advice do you have for the New York Times?

Jeff Jarvis: If I were running the New York Times company today, I would use the Boston Globe as a laboratory to do all kinds of new and brave things and figure out what to do. 

Maybe it shouldn’t be in print, maybe it should go hyper local, maybe it should go multimedia, maybe it should be five different products, I don’t know; but I would try them out in Boston.  At the New York Times itself, their strength is their weakness because they are this incredible institution and they’re trying to protect that, and for good reason.  But that protectionism is not a strategy for the future and they realize that. I’m not saying anything to them they don’t know.

They are trying to do new things but they’re constantly saddled with being the New York Times.  So what I hope really happens is that, in newspapers across the country, we’ll see experiments about new ways to do things. 

The Madison Capital Times, an afternoon paper and a two paper market has just gone out of print except for a two once a week supplements and they’re now going to go solely online.  We’ll see how that works, I think every paper in the country should be looking at new experiments and seeing new ways to do things.

Recorded on: Apri 30, 2008