News about Social Bookmarking and News Sites…printed on dead trees

This WSJ article, “The Wizards of Buzz”, examines the influence of Digg, StumbleUpon,, Reddit, Newsvine, and Netscape.

To find the key influencers, The Wall Street Journal analyzed more than 25,000 submissions across six major sites. With the help of Dapper, a company that designs software to track information published on the Web, this analysis sifted through snapshots of the sites’ home pages every 30 minutes over three weeks. The data included which users posted the submissions and the number of votes each received from fellow users. We then contacted scores of individual users to find which ones are tracked by the wider community.

Full article

My mother was surprised to hear the other day that we don’t subscribe to our local newspaper and that I think that in my lifetime, news will be printed to hard copy only on demand. The next day, I saw this article from Ha’aretz (an Israeli newspaper) in which Arthur Sulzberger, owner, chairman and publisher of the New York Times, is quoted as saying:

“I really don’t know whether we’ll be printing the Times in five years, and you know what? I don’t care either…”


Sulzberger says the New York Times is on a journey that will conclude the day the company decides to stop printing the paper.


“These costs aren’t anywhere near what print costs,” Sulzberger says. “The last time we made a major investment in print, it cost no less than $1 billion. Site development costs don’t grow to that magnitude.”

This makes me think of a few MLIS students I have met who seem shocked and disheartened when they realize that many library resources previously stored on dead trees are moving to digital platforms. Other benefits aside, it is a matter of economics not terribly dissimilar from those which caused earlier dead-tree archives at the public library to be abandoned in favor of microfilm and microfiche- but some MLIS students I have met seem repulsed at the idea that they need technology skills in order to pursue a career in librarianship.

Just to re-state: The owner of the New York Times is planning to stop printing on paper. He’s not preparing for the possibility– he knows it will eventually happen and that the only question is how fast it’ll happen.

Those technology skills you’re being encouraged to gain in library school? They’re not optional if you want to be employable.

2 thoughts on “News about Social Bookmarking and News Sites…printed on dead trees

  1. I really agree with you that technology skills are not optional if you want to be employable as a librarian, but I still think Sulzberger is jumping the gun on the death of the print NYT. I think it’s akin to those predictions from the recent past that said we would be living in a paperless world by 2000 or 2005 or even 2010.

    While I can understand that you were able to go totally digital and remove yourself from paper newspapers, I don’t think the general public is going to be there for at least another decade or two, if then. My guess is that you, David, are quite the screen head to begin with. You are probably never far from a laptop, PDA, tablet, or any one of a 100 other devices that are all currently capable of accessing the internet. I tend to go in that direction myself with several desktops, a laptop, a smartphone, etc., but even I still keep a newspaper subscription. I’ll get a little old-timey and say that there’s still something nice about reading a physical paper over breakfast, I still prefer browsing in a hard copy paper rather than in an online soft copy version, and what probably tips the scales for me in terms of a hard copy format is that I primarily read the paper for entertainment rather than news. Have you tried doing the crossword or the Sudoku online? It’s possible, but it definitely feels like there is something missing. Keep in mind as I say all of this that at work, in my library, I shun paper like the plague. I’d like to sit at my desk and pull in everything I need electronically without ever touching my hands to a filthy printed page again, but I still want my printed paper before I leave for work in the morning. The same is going to be ten times as true until the older generations die off or there is a cheap and convenient device on which to comfortably view electronic text.

    That cheap and convenient device is the only thing that I think will possibly allow the NYT to stop printing paper in 5 years. Right now we have the incredibly over-priced Sony Reader and not much else that attempts to recreate the comfort of print. I’ve seen dozens of other ebook readers fall by the wayside and I’ve seen no indications that this trend is going to change anytime soon. Even if these readers do gain ground it still takes years for them to saturate the market well enough to allow a major American newspaper to assume everyone has one. Think of HDTV. How long has that tech been around? A little less than 10 years. What percentage of new TVs purchased in 2006 were HD? 32% (or about that, I don’t have the article on me). Consumers take a long time to adopt new technology and ebook readers have some of the same content issues that HDTV does. Why would I buy and HDTV if the television signal in my house only has 4 HD channels? Why would I buy an ebook reader when all my old text files still look pretty crappy without additional optimization for eink?

    Anyway, I just think it’ll be a while before we can agree with Egon that “Print is dead.”

  2. Hi Alex-

    I actually agree with almost everything you’ve written above.

    I absolutely do not believe that “print is dead” and I don’t believe that the world will be “paperless” in my lifetime. In fact, I don’t think print will die until after the human race does.

    I’m not making the argument that printed media are going to (or should) go the way dinosaurs.

    I’m not saying that others should do as I do and cancel their subscriptions to printed newspapers. I don’t like to be preached to, and try not to preach at others.

    What I’m saying is that if the owner and publisher of the newspaper of record is preparing for massive digital transitions, librarians should take that as yet another sign (among a great many)that digital skills are utterly essential and becoming more essential every day.

    I’m also saying that people like me are one of the biggest reasons that the newspaper industry is experiencing some very, very hard times. Much money that is now spent on paper will be spent instead on digital media.

    I’m saying that print runs are going to decrease, and eventually the technology will be available for those who want their news printed on physical pages to allow them to get it printed on demand and customized to their interests and preferences.

    (My printed NY Times, for instance, wouldn’t have a sports section because it would be wasted pulp and ink I wouldn’t use). In this sense, maybe I am saying that newspapers will go the way of the dinosaurs. Those that survived evolved into birds, right? Animals better suited for their new environment.)

    For the record, I’ve never read a novel in eBook format(yuck) or done a crossword digitally (blech). If I wanted to do a crossword, though, I’d want to print it out individually, and would gladly make a micropayment for the privilege. I prefer that model to the comparatively expensive and wasteful alternative of buying a whole newspaper and all of the environmental problems that come with it.

    I love paper media. I’m not advocating or predicting their extinction. I’m pointing out that much of what has previously fed paper media is now being fed to their digital descendents. Many kinds of paper media will need to adapt in order to survive.

    Thanks so much for the thoughtful, excellent comment. Please consider leaving a lot more just like it. 🙂