Tuesday, July 18, 2006

No More News Holes

The Mighty Atrios got an editorial in The Los Angeles Times today. In the course of writing about "Why The Left Is Furious With Joementum" he seemed to neglect to mention the whole "In Connecticut, it shouldn't take more than a short ride to get to another hospital" debacle that has our feminist friends righteously and rightfully pissed off with him.

Atrios addresses the issue in a followup. In so doing, he surfaces a problem I've long complained about privately, and it's time to rant a bit here on the subject. (My emphasis in bold.)
In my tribute to the mighty and glory of blogofascism, Joe's troubles with women got left on the cutting room floor. I believe "grotesque indifference to the plight of rape victims" was in an earlier draft. But, those issues require a few extra words to explain for those not already familiar with them, and print doesn't allow one the luxury of verbosity. I suggest all punditry be moved to the internet where it belongs.
The technical term for the constraint of newspaper publishing that caused this to happen is "the news hole."

The "news hole" is the blank space left on the paper after you place all the advertisements. The news exists as a vehicle to deliver the advertising, not the other way around. Get that through you fscking head, you idiots. It's always been that way for the print people, and it will always be that way.[No... it has not always been that way -- mojo] It's pure economics. If the news is too big to fit between the ads, then the news gets trimmed down to size. You do not buy more paper and make the hole bigger to hold all the news. Buying more paper means having to sell more advertisements (and buying more ink) without lowering the price for ads or raising the price of subscriptions. You begin to see the problem, yes?

On the Internet, the advertising is reduced to the essentially parasitic role it should naturally have in distributing the news. The advertising is one of several available revenue models to use for paying to operate your news department. Advertisements go into the "advertising hole" and if the ads are too big, then they get trimmed down to size. There is always enough space to print all of the news, the whole story, with nothing left on the cutting room floor. More details can always be just a hyperlink away.

One of the reasons for this is that text consumes a tiny fraction of the Internet resources that images, audio and video do. Effective advertising is resource intensive, and the costs of delivering it far outweigh the costs of serving up an 800-word column. This is not true in newspaperland.

Atrios is right. Punditry belongs on the Internet. So does classified advertising. And the Sunday coupon section. And the comics— especially the comics. Come to think of it, so does pretty much all the rest of the content in your average newspaper. Newspapers need to just get over their existential crisis, sell off their printing presses and hardcopy distribution operations, replace them with a nice rented data center in a non-descript building one hop from the MAE, and join the electronic information age like the rest of America. Dammit.

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