Mar 26, 2009

Must Read: Clay Shirky's "Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable"

I had the pleasure of seeing Clay Shirky speak at SXSW and he's just as sharp in person as he is on the page. (He's the author of Here Comes Everybody, the much-discussed book about the effects of web 2.0 on the social order.)

This blog post, Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable has been getting a tsunami of buzz and once you read it, you'll understand why.

Once you're finished reading it, I'd ask you to substitute the word "advertising" for "newspapers" and/or "journalism" and see if you don't come to the same conclusion.

Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable

Back in 1993, the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain began investigating piracy of Dave Barry’s popular column, which was published by the Miami Herald and syndicated widely. In the course of tracking down the sources of unlicensed distribution, they found many things, including the copying of his column to on usenet; a 2000-person strong mailing list also reading pirated versions; and a teenager in the Midwest who was doing some of the copying himself, because he loved Barry’s work so much he wanted everybody to be able to read it.

One of the people I was hanging around with online back then was Gordy Thompson, who managed internet services at the New York Times. I remember Thompson saying something to the effect of “When a 14 year old kid can blow up your business in his spare time, not because he hates you but because he loves you, then you got a problem.” I think about that conversation a lot these days.


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