Andrey Miroshnichenko, Russia
School of Effective Text
The death of the printed press is predetermined by multimedia technologies; the agony is likely to begin in the late 2010s with the crash of the distribution system and finish when the Last Newspaper Generation passes away. The printed press has almost 20 years of existence before it disappears.
There are three main reasons leading to the death of newspapers: multimedia technologies, crash of distribution and change of generation.
When we speak about the newspaper crisis we usually attribute it to the Internet as the danger for newspapers coming from the multimedia is generally acknowledged. This is the first reason.
The second reason is the distribution system. As any multi-branched network selling cheap goods, the system of distribution of the print press can only exist with a sufficient sales turnover. The sales are falling slowly but as soon as the turnover collapses the network will not be able to support itself.
And the third reason for the death of newspapers is the change of generation. In fact, we are faced with a phenomenon of Axial Generation (Boundary Generation): these are people born (in Russia) in the 1930s. They were born in the agricultural epoch, worked in the industrial epoch and now they live in the post-industrial epoch. Three epochs are compressed in one generation, which has never happened before. It is a great destruction of cultural traditions. Another thing is: social habits are no longer transferred to the next generation. It means that a son does not subscribe to the same magazines as his father used to.
The last teenagers who knew what subscription was lived in the 1990s and were born in the 1980s. They are the Last Newspaper Generation. The epoch of the print press will disappear as soon as this Generation is gone. After this, rare newspapers and magazines will survive, and these will be objects of vintage fashion. The print press will never be a mass product after the 2030s.
I used to believe that newspapers have one feature which guarantees them timelessness. This characteristic is public importance. Due to the limitation in copies and space, not every person can write in classical media. At the same time, everyone can write on the Internet. This is why words in the print press have a higher social value.
However, I found out later that there is the Viral Editor on the Internet. It is able to generate public importance no less efficiently than a mass media professional editor. The Viral Editor is a dispersed creature of the Internet, a kind of artificial intelligence, a neural network where knots are users. Having found an interesting topic randomly, a random user makes a decision: to cross-post, to add (what exactly), to cut (what exactly), to comment. Every user is engaged in his own micro-editing. His main aim is to receive his friends` response. And the user tries very hard. If he succeeds in it, other users get involved and do the same. It is similar to an infection - “infection of interest”: one blogger infects another and then many other bloggers. Together they become one big editor. This is why I refer to it as the Viral Editor. This phenomenon circulates around a large number of people and generates public importance without intermediaries, without the media.
As a result, mass media are deprived of everything. They have lost their monopoly on news, opinions, current events. They have lost the monopoly on mass distribution of information. And now mass media have lost their monopoly on the production of public importance.
The only thing that still remains in monopolistic control of mass media is the pattern of agenda recognized by society: “Main Issues/Politics/Economics/Culture/Accidents/Sports”. Common navigation along common patterns will survive as a special journalistic function. But it will be another kind of mass media.
This will be Media 3.0. It will combine the experience of classical editorial staff and the technologies of the blogosphere. In such mass media an editor will be the creator of agenda, a commander of observers and the “shepherd” of bloggers. And users will know where to find the centers of importance created by observers and bloggers.