Matt Miller on the Future of Print

Question: What’s the way forward for a magazine like Fortune?Miller:    I’m just a contributor to Fortune, so I’m not part of the, you know, the in-house workings, but, look, all the major media are going through this tremendous tumult know, as you know, and the economics of the internet have just changed everything.  And so, I’m very bullish about ideas and content finding their audience, because we know that continues to happen.  I think that there’s no question it’s going to fundamentally, you know, overhaul the delivery systems that we have for how we get content, and, you know, that’s displacing a lot of people already.  I have lots of friends and colleagues I know who have felt the, you know, the sting of this from the cutbacks that different institutions, name brand institutions all over the place, are going through, and yet it’s, it will be interesting to see, you know… One of the things people always say about the media is that the media have always been unsympathetic to those who lose out from free trade because, you know, nobody’s outsourcing editors’ jobs.  Well, now, people are outsourcing editors’ jobs and writers’ jobs and, you know, there’s a lot of things you can do all around the world.  You’ve even, you know, you’re seeing reports about local papers.  I think there’s one in Sacramento that has its reporting done by three people in India. Of course, they’re scouring the local listings and doing it, you know, at 1/20th of the price, and I think we have to be, it’s very disruptive for people.  I think it will make the media more sympathetic to the losers from trade, which is something we actually need in the culture, and, you know, who know where it ends?  I’m sure, at the end of this, there’ll be, you know, a whole new set of things going on.  The one thing I worry about, I guess, is I don't know what we would do without something like the New York Times, for example.  For all the ways that, you know, the Times, obviously, because it’s so powerful, has these enormous critics.  Most of what, even the critics, most of what even the critics of the New York Times know about the world, they know it from the New York Times, or the Wall Street Journal, or the Washington Post, and without these major national institutions investing in the reporting organizations they have around the world, there is a certain common base of knowledge that you wonder, you know, maybe they’ll just get reinvented in a more cost-effective fashion on the internet, under some of these brands, but it’s hard to know, it’s hard to know which way it goes, and I noticed yesterday, you know, just before we do this interview, the New York Times had its first ever front page ad at the bottom of the front page of the New York Times.  Now, I’m not a purist.  I’m not against ads in different parts of newspapers, but it was another marker of the times that the New York Times was selling a 2-inch ad along the bottom, you know, full page, 2 inch across the banner ad at the bottom, and I thought it was particularly ironic that it was a CBS ad.  So it was, you know, it was an attempt by the New York Times, which is being killed by lack of advertising, with some ad bought by an entity that itself is seeking advertising in troubled times, so there’s some meta irony in that I’m sure, but I’m not smart enough to figure out what it is.

The author talks about the many woes facing newspapers and magazines.

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