Monday, December 8

Off-topic: Let the Dinosaurs Die

Major newspapers and the big three car companies are dinosaurs and it's time for them to face extinction. Today, the Tribune group filed for bankruptcy, which includes the LA Times, Chicago Tribune, other national newspapers. Even the New York Times, which is one of the more tech-savvy, could be next. As Nick Bilton, NY Times R&D researcher writes in a recent O'Reilly article,
For the past 157 years (that's how old the newspaper is) we've essentially delivered 'dumb content' to people's doorsteps. You and I, irrespective of interests, location etc. have received the same newspaper on our doorsteps every morning. We're beginning to explore ways to make content smarter, to understand what you've read, which device you've read it on and your micro level interests—making the most important news find you, instead of you having to find it.
However, it may be too little, too late. Newspapers could have adapted to the Internet and the realities of the web, instead they chose to fight tooth and nail trying to forestall the inevitable change in business models. For example, they could have developed really good online classified services, but they didn't and Craigslist is eating them alive. Despite owning some of the best content and writers, they can't seem to figure out what to do with it all. Many of them have largely ignored the reality of content navigation via search engines and SEO. In short, they don't get the web. There are a few examples of individuals trying to change this, for example Marshall Simmonds formerly of About.com (now owned by the NY Times) has been leading the charge to open up the NY Times archives. However, these companies have a lot of sunk costs in outdated technology and infrastructure and most of them won't survive the recession.

I'm even less sympathetic to the big three automakers whose short-sightedness building gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs has finally caught up with them.

If these companies can't adapt to the reality of the market then they should fail. There should be no government bailouts. I don't want to loan them my money when they ruined their companies and there does not appear to be concrete viable turnaround plans.

Standing by and letting car companies and newspapers fail will certainly hurt in the short run, but ultimately it will make our economy stronger and more competitive by getting rid of the weak and corrupt. Both newspapers and car companies will be replaced by new breeds of more nimble businesses that figure out ways to adapt and thrive in a new world.

Just a last note: This does not mean that I am unsympathetic to the hard-working blue collar workers at these companies. I have friends and relatives involved in these businesses. I think that if anything is done, the government should extend education money, health care, and other benefits to help these workers make ends meet and re-train. We should all chip and help our neighbors get by in tough times, I'd want others to do the same for me.

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