Pew Speeds Quantifies the Dead Tree Blight in the Information Forest

December 25, 2008

Pew Research Center for the People and the Press (a go-to info source for the Washington DC crowd) released a news story here with the snappy title “Internet Overtakes Newspapers as News Source.” the write up is typical charts and graphs style. You can wade through the data and the inevitable footnotes designed to make it easy for Statistics 101 teachers to create an assignment via cut and paste. For me, the key point was:

Currently, 40% say they get most of their news about national and international issues from the Internet, up from just 24% in September 2007. For the first time in a Pew survey, more people say they rely mostly on the Internet for news than cite newspapers (35%). Television continues to be cited most frequently as a main source for national and international news, at 70%.

The rest of the data are interesting but not the pivot point for me like this shift to the Internet and the crowning of TV as king for 2009.


The outlook for traditional publishing. Source:

My interpretation of these data, as you may expect, is slightly different from the “newspapers are dead” analysis I have offered in the past. Here’s the variant:

  1. More newspapers will chase the online world. I think this is akin to what I have seen described as death throes. These action presage the passing, not the dawning of a rebirth. Citizen input forms for breaking news, anyone?
  2. The magazines and professional journals are next in line. These intellectual mavens will find tough rowing when budget caps crash on hapless accountants, crushing the publishers of serials under the weight of increasing costs.
  3. The anti Google crowd needs to speed up their efforts to crush Google Video Search,, and the Google Channel. The children of the dead tree crowd are already defecting, so the publishing and media elite are not able to generate folks who share their mums’ and daddies’ love of 16th century intellectual artifacts. I can see the scene now. Mum says, “Take out the garbage.” Media child pulls iPod ear buds out of her ears and says, “What?” Media child goes back to the Macbook video, stuffs the ear buds in her ears, and grabs her iPhone to send a text message that says, “Parentz R 2 lame.”

Now you may point out that I omitted book publishers. No, I didn’t omit them. When the New York publishing houses started to announce cut backs in new titles last month, I wrote that segment off as intellectual meat through the sausage machine.

Okay, dead tree lovers, tell me I am wrong. Just include facts. Pew data are okay. Examples like the tiny 10,000 circulation newspaper in New Jersey are fine. Fancy books used to decorate law offices and upscale dwellings qualify as well. Just include data with your addled goose guidebook.

Stephen Arnold, December 25, 2008


One Response to “Pew Speeds Quantifies the Dead Tree Blight in the Information Forest”

  1. 2008: The Year Internet Surpassed Newspapers | Kellblog on September 15th, 2010 11:28 pm

    […] Pew Speeds Quantifies the Death Dead Tree Blight in the Information Forest […]

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