The businesses that are now dead

June 10, 2008, 3:48 PM UTC

I go to a lot of meetings with a lot of bullsh**ters. One of the main topics of such people in a host of different businesses is a twofold argument with which they amuse themselves and each other. Here are its two prongs:

  • My business is coming up the ramp;
  • Some other business is dead.

The other business that is dead is, unless you are speaking to a very depressed person, not the one he or she is in.

So it depends on who you are speaking to, or to whom you are speaking, depending on whether that grammar stuff matters to you.

Following are the businesses that are dead, if you hang around with enough bullsh**ters in a wide enough range of fields:

  • The theater
  • Movies in movie houses
  • Public schools
  • Radio, because of satellite radio,
  • Satellite radio, because of Internet radio and ITunes
  • Broadcast television, because of cable and Internet video
  • Cable television, because of satellite TV and Internet video
  • Satellite television, because of digital television conversion and Internet video
  • Internet video, because of digital television conversion and downloading
  • DVDs, because of downloading
  • Downloading, because of the ubiquity of broadband streaming
  • Personal computers with hard drive capacity, due to cloud computing
  • Land-line telephones, because they’re so 20th Century
  • Any internet company that is not Google (GOOG), for obvious reasons
  • Google, because, well, how long can they keep THIS up?
  • Books, of course
  • Magazines, except the ones that we’re on the cover of, and…
  • Newspapers

The only one that everybody agrees about right now, among the b.s.-ing class, is newspapers. Newspapers are dead. Dead dead dead. Yes, Rupert Murdoch doesn’t seem to believe so, but he is incorrect in this, or doesn’t see the truth right now, or whatever. Because you know newspapers? They’re dead.

This is not helped at all by the appearance of Sam Zell, who bought Tribune (TXA), and whose chief operating officer recently announced they would begin to judge the value of journalists by the column inches they produced in a year. This is sort of like saying that Chichi’s is the best restaurant in America because it serves the greatest weight in nachos.

That aside, however, everybody does agree: they’re dead. One day there will be no newspapers, because No Young People Read Newspapers. Is this true? My kids are of sentient age. They read newspapers. In fact, they’re both knee deep in Obamamania right now, and read everything they can get their hands on. I see people reading newspapers on the street, in parks, on subways and buses… when you get a bad story in the newspaper it still ruins your day…

But no. They’re dead. Know why? Because Advertising is Down in newspapers. Now of course, advertising is sort of down across the board, and actually MUCH more disappointing on all those social networks everybody loves so much… and newspapers still attract a HUGE proportion of total advertising…

But no. Newspapers are dead. And advertisers read that and, timid little lambkins that they are, cut their budgets even more, because after all who wants to advertise in a dead medium?

Finally, newspapers are, you know, dead because they Haven’t Changed With The Times and News Is A Commodity That You Can Get Just As Well Online.

Except guess what. It’s not. I’ll just say what I think and get out of here. As always, if you agree, lob something in.

  • I like newspapers. I look at a few every day and even read some of each;
  • I don’t believe everything I read in the paper, but I’m interested in what they think is interesting;
  • Newspapers have been around a long time, from medieval days through the time of Horace Greeley (above) and beyond. Radio didn’t kill them. TV didn’t kill them. The internet will not kill them;
  • If there were no newspapers, all we’d have is the Internet, whose capacity for the promulgating and dispensation of bulls**t is unparalleled;
  • I am NOT interested in a PERSONAL, daily e-mail informing me only of the stuff I pre-select as of interest to me. What’s the pleasure in that?
  • If we all had a euro for every article in some medium that declared another medium dead, we’d all be Europeans;
  • Aggregators can only aggregate content if there is content to aggregate. No content, no aggregators;
  • Contrary to popular belief, journalism is an actual profession that takes training, talent and skill, and one of the most rigorous and necessary places in which it’s pursued is in newspapers;
  • 89% of all citizen-journalists are just full of it.

So let’s take a breath and just agree: newspapers aren’t any deader right now than any other coughing, wheezing business in this lousy environment. Lehman (LEH) is losing nearly $3 billion dollars this quarter. Nobody talks about investment banking being dead. Broadcast television just racked up more than $9.2 billion in its upfront sales season, in spite of analysts’ predictions that this year would be its last. And not one social network is really making a go of it yet.

Now you guys in newspapers could probably help a little, going forward. Why not stop writing pieces every day about how dead every other industry is? Just a thought, tough guys.