Dave Barry: Newspapers are dead.

The San Francisco Chronicle interviewed Dave Barry, a guy who made his name through his newspaper column, and captured his stunning proclamation:

“Newspapers,” he said right off the bat, “are dead.”

“The era of the writer in the newspaper was in the ’70s and ’80s,” Barry said, “when newspapers were making money no matter what. They’d send somebody off to Fiji for a story. If you knew you had somebody good, you’d just send them. You knew they’d come up with something.”

Dave suggests that blogs and podcasts are the future:

“About five years ago, I went to the Herald and I told them, ‘I’ve got this blog and maybe you’d like to run it,’ ” Barry said. “And they said, ‘It’s a what?’ But then they had a committee meeting or something and now they want everybody to have a blog. They want the security guard to have a blog.”

While I don’t believe that newspapers are dead yet, I do believe that they need to find a way to interact with their readers if they want to remain relevant in the future.

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Click to call.

Robert Scoble wants to be able to tag his personal information in such a way the search engines can find it and make it available for people looking for him.

I’d just like to know why there is no way to indentify a phone number on a web page. There is the mailto: prefix for email, but why not a phone: prefix? Or an IM: (or AOL:, Yahoo:, MSN:, and Google:) prefix?

With the proliferation of VoIP and products like Skype and Gizmo, why can’t I just click to call somebody?

To be fair, it seems that microformats are the answer to this question, but it just seems like it has taken a long time to get there, and we aren’t there yet.

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Getting less for more.

Like their US counterparts, large Canadian ISPs are now considering tiered internet service:

The free ride may be over for consumers who download movies and music files and play video games, as Internet service providers consider a move toward a “two-tier Internet.”

Companies that carry the data are talking about charging Canadians extra for everything from streaming audio and video to Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone calls and online gaming. Anything that uses bandwidth is under examination.

This is not about providing better service. This is about charging you more for the service you already get, and pay more for than most countries in the world.

These are companies that have been promising unlimited bandwidth for years. The Bell High Speed Internet Access page lists the key features of the service:

Key Features

Unlimited bandwidth usage    Y

Now that you are actually starting to use what they have been promising for years they suddenly want to charge you more for it:

The added charges being discussed are the result of too much traffic riding on the networks for free, says Lawrence Surtees, director of Canadian telecom and Internet research with Toronto-based technology analysis company, IDC Canada.

“If it’s just a blip, they don’t care. But if it’s big, then all of a sudden I’m an ISP with infrastructure. I’m on the hook for carrying that stuff and equipping the network to handle it and I’m not getting paid for it.”

I’m not sure where the “free” part comes from, because my ISP charges me $40+ per month. Many other countries are providing much faster service for a fraction of the price.

This is merely the act of desperate companies who see their business model crumbling, and they are trying to protect it by increasing prices drastically for what we already get. How can you possibly justify price discrimination and a massive increase in price for the same service we get today?

Would it be reasonable if operators suddenly started charging ten times as much for long distance calls? That’s pretty much what we’re talking about here.

The internet has become as useful as it is because of non-discriminatory pricing. To introduce tiered service now will simply end the ability of North America to compete with the rest of the world.

Professor Michael Geist has more here.

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The message versus the facts.

Dan Gillmor quotes the first paragraph of a NY Times article to make a point:

NY Times: Climate Expert Says NASA Tried to Silence Him. The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

He must not have read the rest of the article though, because I did and at no other point is Bush even mentioned, and there is certainly no proof of any kind given of such a charge. The headline seems more accurate insofar as NASA appears to be doing the silencing, but it wouldn’t surprise me if NASA was merely trying to protect their appropriations as any government department would.

The facts of the article just don’t seem to support the message and the point that Dan is trying to make.

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What is “cross-platform convergence”?

The at&t ad on page 19 of the Sunday New York Times says that the merged companies of at&t and SBC can deliver “cross platform convergence”. I hadn’t heard that term before so I Googled it, and found 368 hits, many of which are actually a differently punctuated version. Perhaps it’s telling that the fifth hit is the Corporate Gibberish Generato on AndrewDavidson.com:

We will generate the capacity of client-focused cross-platform convergence
monitoring reports to mesh. Imagine a combination of Unix and SMIL. …

After searching the ad for their website TheNewATT.com – printed in tiny font in faint white print on the orange background at the top and far awar from the rest of the text – I found it wasn’t much help, only having this to say (in an image, as opposed to text):

Your world. Delivered. AT&T’s passion to invent and SBC’s drive to deliver have come together to create the most complete and secure network, delivering what matters most in your world. Introducing the new AT&T.

Click here to learn more about the merger.

Apparently the must feel that customers are more concerned about the merger than their service, because they never actually mention what matters most to me.

But back to the original question, I can logically work out what they might have meant; that they can help you work efficiently in a world of multiple platforms like different operating systems, networks, phone services, and other things. But what do they really mean?

Is it possible that there exists today a company that doesn’t deliver cross-platform convergence?

They finally get it.

My local paper, The Record, is taking down their pay wall starting this Wednesday, and allowing people to read the paper online for free. Now that search engines can see them they can finally become relevant, and I can link to them.

Publisher Fred Kuntz had this to say:

Why are we opening up our website? It’s because growth in The Record’s readership and circulation gives us confidence that our printed newspaper will continue to thrive, even as the Internet grows.

When the Internet first blossomed, some newspapers feared that migration of readers to the Internet might erode their audience, and therefore advertising revenues — but the opposite is happening, especially here where we live.

Surprisingly, research shows that people who read news online are even more likely to be newspaper subscribers. Many people use all types of media, including newspapers, magazines, radio, television, the Internet.

This makes them more aware of current events, more engaged in community affairs and, therefore, better citizens,

Or course he also points out that the money doesn’t hurt:

Not only is newspaper readership growing in Waterloo Region, but more businesses are putting their marketing dollars into advertising on the Internet. The Record’s website has among the highest traffic in the region, and we’d like to continue to make it even more popular.

Each month, our website at TheRecord.com has more than 90,000 unique visitors and more than 2 million page views.

I’ve been trying to convince them for two years to take down their pay wall. Just imagine how ecstatic they’ll be when they start to appear in Google and people from all over the world start to hit the site.

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The new evangelists.

I’m trying to help VC Rick Segal to pump up the hits for Venture Capitalist Killer.

Maybe Rick’s been out in the cold in Canada a bit too long because he’s starting to have these radical ideas about the VC business, even suggesting that VCs should treat their portfilio companies as if they were valued customers.

Rick’s a smart guy, and he’s probably noticed the fact that these days companies don’t need VC finds to create, market, and sell products. Suddenly you can do that for next to nothing. I released a blogging client called Bleezer less than two weeks ago. Already people around the world are downloading it, trying it, suggesting great enhancements, and blogging about it.

The other day my local paper called to ask if they could interview me for a story about it, which they did today. Other than the cost of the Powerbook and my time, everything else has been free, so my cost to build and market Bleezer has been virtually nothing so far. And the marketing has been all word of mouth, and of blog.

So VCs are reduced to giving money to companies that are already successful, instead of having companies beg for their money. It’s putting VCs in the position of being evangelists for the products, instead of bankers.

The VCs that can adapt well to that situation – like Rick – should do just fine.

Suing music fans is the problem.

Apparently the RIAA does not represent all record companies. Nettwerk Music Group, home to Sarah McLachlan, Avril Lavigne, and others, has joined the fight against the RIAA on behalf of consumers who wish to download music:

“Suing music fans is not the solution, it’s the problem,” stated Terry McBride, C.E.O of Nettwerk Music Group.

[...]

“Litigation is not ‘artist development.’ Litigation is a deterrent to creativity and passion and it is hurting the business I love,” insists McBride. “The current actions of the RIAA are not in my artists’ best interests.”

Nettwerk is supporting 15-year-old Elisa Greubel, whose family is being sued by the RIAA. Nettwerk will pay all legal fees and fines should the family lose.

Tip of the hat to Michael Geist.

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