Repeat after me, there is no such thing as an Internet newspaper

There is no such thing as an Internet newspaper, says Nick Carr.

“The nature of a newspaper, both as a medium for information and as a
business, changes when it loses its physical form and shifts to the
Internet. It gets read in a different way, and it makes money in a
different way.”

Somebody needs to tell that to many of the people working to push print newspapers further on the Web as online or Internet newspapers. They overlook that the product can’t be an Internet newspaper as Carr notes.

His post is one of several interesting ones at the Britannica Blog: Newspapers & the Net Forum. In another, Charles M. Madigan, Presidential Writer in Residence at Roosevelt University in Chicago and veteran journalist, has some thoughts on how the Internet will save journalism.

I liked this part:

“We are wrong when we assume people no longer want to know what is
going on. We simply have to find a way that speaks to them, not at
them, and that joins with them as respectful observers of their lives,
most of which do not involve homicide, theft, disaster so you would
know it or bitterness. They are just lives playing out. We don’t need
Garrison Kiellor or Ann Coulter to comment on that from either the left
or right. It might be nice to hear from someone intensely local.

“Then we can have journalism again.

“I’m 58. There’s still time!”

Let’s hope so. If not for the newspaper, then for the journalism.


  1. Media Studies students bounce this around a great deal in class. Much criticism is passed along to newspapers who believe that simply cutting and pasting stories from print into an electronic/Internet format makes them an ‘Internet newspaper’. It simply points out that there is a gross misunderstanding/under-use of the Internet and electronic delivery.
    The best analogy I can give in terms of disruptive technologies is to look at the transition from radio to television. How silly would it be if television stations used nothing but still images over an audio broadcast. Certainly it would have been ‘television’, but lacks understanding of the power of the (then) new technology. That’s not too far from where we are today with newspapers and the Internet.
    Newspapers will not likely re-define the Internet. Conversely, attempting to make the Internet a newspaper would be much like attempting to make television into radio…it simply isn’t going to happen.
    We may need a new language to describe news consumption from the receiver’s perspective rather than the delivery system’s perspective. To say that “there is no such thing as an Internet newspaper” sounds too much like an industry in denial. News delivery via the Internet is a growing part of the traditional newspaper business and what we are witnessing is something akin to an arranged marriage where neither party is quite sure how things are supposed to look when they get together. Interesting times…

  2. Great comments. I appreciate them.
    Certainly “there is no such thing as an Internet newspaper” is a bit of hyperbole, but your point and Carr’s (I think) — and certainly mine — is that the mindset of print newsrooms is to approach the Web as simply an additional platform.
    I think “just another platform” upon which to pour content is, in fact, a rather limited and ultimately faulty premise. Just as in your radio-television analogy, the Web requires ways of communicating that are native to its environment. You are right. A new language to describe what we’re doing is needed in order to provide the framework to allow a different way of thinking. Or another way of saying it, traditional media doesn’t have the native tongue down and thus can’t think like the natives.
    I do think Web sites run by what are now newspapers companies will survive (at least that’s my hope). I also wonder what we will call the New York Times or the Knoxville News Sentinel or Nashville Tennessean a decade or more from now? A newspaper? That might seen quite quaint.

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