RonAmok!

The adventures of an analog engineer and digital storyteller who studies emerging networks and their impact on the great game of business.
Nov 28, 2008

Out of Town News in Harvard Square, Cambridge

In his 1996 book, Being Digital, Nicholas Negroponte discusses the  concept of atoms and bits. Since the economics of the past were based on the manufacturing and distribution of atoms, the content that we consumed came in the form of paper, film, vinyl, or magnetic tape. Yet as we began digitizing our content and putting it online, the need to manufacture and transport atoms became obsolete in favor of distributing content as bits.

Bit-based publications have an economic advantage over their atom-based cousins simply because they don’t need paper, ink, trucks, or fuel to deliver their content. The ramifications of this economic reality have been chronicled in Paul Gillin’s Newspaper Death Watch and it was only a matter of time before atom-based publication losses trickled down into the distribution channels.

Out of Town News has been a fixture in the very center of Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts since 1955. As someone who grew up in the area, I can’t count the number of times I stopped by Out of Town News, either on my way to or fro the “T” Station to pickup a newspaper. The iconic newsstand recently decided not to renew its lease, and will be vacating its prime real estate — perhaps as soon as the end of the month.

Ironically, when bit-based publication Wicked Local.com asked about the closing, General Manager Kallol Barua said, “Nobody buys newspapers anymore. People are reading everything online mostly.”

The new Economics of Influence is rippling through atom-based information and entertainment industries, as those involved distribution (think the Music Industry) are squeezed in favor of those who distribute as bits. From a nostalgic perspective, it’s sad. Out of Town News occupies a soft spot in my heart. But from an opportunity perspective, we live in very exciting times. The entire way we as humans create, distribute and consume content is in flux. Old industries are dying while new industries are being born. Nobody knows exactly how its gonna shake out, but anyone who has studied history knows that changes like these have always made the society richer as opposed to poorer. You just need faith.

Do you have faith?

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/afagen/

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Comments

A west coaster providing me with my Boston news- that’s some trick! Harvard Square is one of my favorite places in the country and that picture captures its essence. I love reading the newspaper on a Sunday morning, and as much of a declining industry as it is, it still has quite a bit of power to capture eyeballs and move opinions locally. I sense that the transition from print media to electronic will be a lot longer than some people think.

Bob Dwyer
November 28, 2008

A west coaster providing me with my Boston news- that’s some trick! Harvard Square is one of my favorite places in the country and that picture captures its essence. I love reading the newspaper on a Sunday morning, and as much of a declining industry as it is, it still has quite a bit of power to capture eyeballs and move opinions locally. I sense that the transition from print media to electronic will be a lot longer than some people think.

Bob Dwyer
November 28, 2008

Brings back memories of my college days in Cambridge, MA. I guess losing anything associated with ” the good years” will be always be sad. Just think though, with teary eyes our kids will recall the “good ole days” of the blogs. And their kids will ask “what’s a blog”?

harry the ASIC guy
December 1, 2008

Brings back memories of my college days in Cambridge, MA. I guess losing anything associated with ” the good years” will be always be sad. Just think though, with teary eyes our kids will recall the “good ole days” of the blogs. And their kids will ask “what’s a blog”?

harry the ASIC guy
November 30, 2008

No link to the griddlesode about the music industry, with Thomas Edison!? That one is classic, and applies. 🙂

Jeremy Vaught
December 20, 2008

No link to the griddlesode about the music industry, with Thomas Edison!? That one is classic, and applies. 🙂

Jeremy Vaught
December 20, 2008

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