So, I’m not quite finished with Clay Shirky’s new book, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, but it’s too good to hold off posting. His take on the state of the newspaper is especially great:
We’ve long regarded the newspaper as a sensible object because it has been such a stable one, but there isn’t any logical connection among its many elements: stories from Iraq, box scores from the baseball games, and ads for everything from shoes to real estate all exist side by side in an idiosyncratic bundle. What holds a newspaper together is primarily the cost of paper, ink, and distribution; a newspaper is whatever group of printed items a publisher can bundle together and deliver profitably. The corollary is also true: what doesn’t go into a newspaper is whatever is too expensive to print and deliver. The old bargain of the newspaper — world news lumped in with horoscopes and ads from the pizza parlor — has now ended. The future presented by the internet is the mass amateurization of publishing and a switch from “Why publish this?” to “Why not?”
Newspapers stopped making sense when the cost of publishing disappeared. They no longer own the written word. It’s been given to everybody. Pulp used to be the most effective way to spread the word — this is no longer true.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Shirky’s take on the transformative power of social software is spot on. It’s an excellent, fast-reading, example-packed companion to Yochai Benkler’s incredible, though slightly chewier, book The Wealth of Networks.