Martin Bright

The Wisdom of Clay Shirky

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I've long been an acolyte of US new media guru Clay Shirky. His book Here Comes Everybody is essential reading for anyone interested in the future of the media and the future of... well, let's just say the future.

One of my students (thanks Alex) has just alerted me to these thoughts, entitled, Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable, on the future of the industry I have worked in for most of my professional life. It's a long piece (so much for the web encouraging bite-sized chunks of information) and some of it is very technical. But this passage struck me as wise:

"The curious thing about the various plans hatched in the ’90s is that they were, at base, all the same plan: “Here’s how we’re going to preserve the old forms of organization in a world of cheap perfect copies!” The details differed, but the core assumption behind all imagined outcomes (save the unthinkable one) was that the organizational form of the newspaper, as a general-purpose vehicle for publishing a variety of news and opinion, was basically sound, and only needed a digital facelift. As a result, the conversation has degenerated into the enthusiastic grasping at straws, pursued by skeptical responses."This past year has changed everything. No one now assumes the old newspaper model will survive. Least of all editors and proprietors of newspapers, who seem to have run out of ideas.