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#a117 :: Dot-com relic

June 11, 2008

ENLARGELike all major American newspapers, thumb the Los Angeles Times – as we know it – may be doomed.

Never thought I’d say that – I worked in newspapers for 17 years, side effects including ’90 to ’97 on staff at the Times, and I always kept the faith.

I had rough moments mixed in with the fantastic stories, but hope barnacled my frequent reality checks – “Oh come ON, they’ll figure it out sooner or later – they’re just an information company that needs to retool for the digital age!”

But they never really did.

In the past two or three years – despite a brutally swift series of coups, reshufflings and overall management changes, the new-media gurus at the paper – once the largest metro daily in the United States – pulled off some remarkable changes. They introduced dozens of blogs, put out hundreds of excellent Flash-heavy multimedia news packages, and were brave enough to take some wild stabs – including less-successful experiments such as the well-run, prematurely killed and excessively ridiculed wikitorial.

But they’re still – still – ignoring the complete paradigm shift in their audience’s relationship with media companies. (My earlier take here.)

So here’s a little token – a gimme gadget that lets you see people sneaking up behind you if you park it on the top-left corner of your computer monitor.

Time for a little reflection, my friends. This model isn’t working.

Only the boldest of editors will admit that the best course – rather than just letting the huge old corpse holding your otherwise precious central nervous system bleed out – is this: Shut down for six months. Abandon the dead-tree distribution medium. Use the savings to retool entirely for the web.

Invite the public inside. Give them a place to call home – news about the small stuff affecting their own lives – and a true voice (read: un-moderated comment threads) on the big stuff.

I don’t know why I keep posting these ideas, honestly. The clue train steamed through years ago, and won’t be coming back.

I guess the sight of a bright, logoed plastic toy – a hint of “fun” from the distant, ill-starred past of an industry sorely lacking such fun, or even vision now – spiked my beer with a lethal dose of maudlin.

Filed under: Artifact, Jetsam, symbol, Toy | Comments (0)

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