Times columnist David Carr looks at the recent Atlantic essay by Michael Hirschorn and comes to the same conclusion I did last week; if the Times went out of business it would be a big deal because, despite what some online optimists think, websites and bloggers and tweeters would not be able to replace what the huge news organization does.
Elsewhere, Carr pines for a Steve Jobs-type figure to come in and rescue newspapers the way Apple did the music industry. Writes Carr:
Remember that when iTunes began, the music industry was being decimated by file sharing. By coming up with an easy user interface and obtaining the cooperation of a broad swath of music companies, Mr. Jobs helped pull the business off the brink. He has been accused of running roughshod over the music labels, which are a fraction of their former size. But they are still in business.
Still in business, yes. But just barely. The idea that 99 cent downloads from iTunes pulled the music industry from the brink is pretty misleading. Music industry sales have absolutely cratered since the music-should-be-free mantra was unleashed by the Internet. The steep declines show no signs of abating and the revenue that iTunes is generating in no way offsets the losses for the music labels.
So while yes, it's nice that Apple convinced people songs are worth paying for, the idea that iTunes saved the music industry, and that an iTunes-like creation could save the newspaper industry, seems misplaced.
P.S. Am I the only one who notes the irony in that back during the Napster craze an awful lot of print journalists spent an awful lot of time lecturing the music industry about how it should stop fighting technology and should start embracing the Internet, even if that meant giving its product away. Today, lots of those print outlets are going out of business, or in danger of going under, thanks to the Internet.