Web-guru, Clay Shirky, has provided in his essay, Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable, a brief history of the relationship between the Internet and traditional newspapers. In the spirit of full disclosure, my wife and I still subscribe to the print version of our local newspaper. Each month when we pay, and at those times when it’s necessary to recycle the newsprint, we ask ourselves “Why are we doing this, exactly?” We haven’t come up with a satisfactory answer, but neither have we been moved to stop subscribing. I think you could say we are late “un-adopters”.
Shirky claims that the newspaper industry in the early 1990’s saw the Internet coming, and they developed several plans to respond to the challenge. Shirky quotes a friend who ran the Internet services for the New York Times who was commenting on the investigation into the pirating of Dave Berry’s popular column. It had been discovered that an active participant in this piracy was a 14 year old boy from the Midwest, who had sent the column to alt.fan.dave_barry on usenet. The teenager was illegally distributing the column because he loved Dave Barry, and thought all should read him. Shirky’s New York Times friend said: “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.”