A world without newspapers

Pundits endlessly debate who the survivors will be among traditional news sources.

It’s quite possible the answer is none.  No for-profit survivors at all.  An economist should agree this is a realistic possibility for a perfectly competitive industry with marginal costs of zero.

We have forgotten why newspapers first arose:  printing and delivery are expensive.  This meant an aggregator like the New York Times had much lower costs than a lowly pamphleteer.

This has been turned on its head.  The pamphleteer now has the lower costs, because he needn’t employ an office, printing press, trucks and union labor, as the NYT must.

In the future, news may instead be gathered mainly by nonprofits or individuals.  It may be edited by respected, subject-specific independent editors — some sophisticated future variant of today’s best bloggers, e.g. CalculatedRisk.

This particular outcome is not certain — not as certain as death, taxes and the inevitable collapse of the Los Angeles Times print edition.  But it is realistic.

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