Johannes Gutenberg got into a fight with Gordon Moore … and lost.

Considering that the lifetimes of these two innovators, visionaries, inventors are separated by more than five centuries, Gutenberg’s loss is obviously figurative — but a defeat nonetheless.

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As anyone even remotely familiar with the history of Journalism knows, Gutenberg is regarded as the first European to use moveable type in 1439 and is credited with the invention of the printing press. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Gutenberg

Conversely, Moore, one of the founders of Intel Corporation (NASDAQ: INTC), is universally hailed in the technology world for “Moore’s Law.” In its simplest form, Moore’s Law states that the number of transistors that can be placed a piece of silicon real estate doubles every 18 months. This “law” has been 100 percent accurate since its inception in 1965 and in some respects has been even conservative. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Moore

Why are these two luminaries from completely different backgrounds and eras joined at the hip when it comes to a discussion of Journalism? The answer is that Gutenberg represents Journalism’s past and Moore, the industry’s future.

Gutenberg’s printing press led to dawn of modern Journalism and even the anachronistic labeling of the profession, known simply (and most likely, always) as “The Press.” Over time, printing presses enveloped the world, morning and evening papers were produced, delivered to doorsteps by an army of news carriers in dilapidated cars, Sting Ray bicycles or sold at downtown newsstands.

This high-cost (in many cases monopolistic) business model worked for decades and led to the development of some of the most famous mastheads on the planet. Even the Gray Lady each day offers, “All the News That’s Fit to Print.”

What happens when the day inevitably arrives that all the news (or at least the lion’s share) is no longer printed? That’s where Moore’s Law enters the equation.

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Moore’s Law essentially says that complexity and functionality increases every year-and-one-half. The tyranny and the serendipity of his theory is that each succeeding generation of devices — let alone breakthrough applications — are better, faster, smaller and consume less power.

As a result, the mainframe computer spelled the end to the IBM Selectric with its novel correcting tape. Mini-computers retired the mainframe. PCs and servers vanquished mini-computers. And the PCs started talking to each via millions of miles of fibre-optic networks or even wirelessly. And now Internet content (e.g. news, information, voice, data, video) is being delivered to tablets, cell phones and digital readers. What is the next Killer App? It’s out there.

Clay Shirky, 46, who teaches New Media at NYU, in his Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable takes issue with the kickers and screamers, trying desperately to cling onto a traditional newspaper business model that no-longer works. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clay_Shirky

“Round and round this goes, with the people committed to saving newspapers demanding to know, ‘If the old model is broken, what will work its place?’ To which the answer is: Nothing. Nothing will work. There is no general model for newspapers to replace the one the Internet just broke.”

Essentially Shirky is saying that those who are refusing to confront the digital facts of life are, “demanding to be lied to. There are fewer and fewer people who can convincingly tell such a lie.”

If you apply Shirky’s commentary to those still clinging to the tried-and-true print journalism business model, you would say they are have already passed denial and are situated somewhere between anger and bargaining with depression and acceptance still to come. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elisabeth_K%C3%BCbler-Ross

Some of the bargainers will even point to Rupert Murdoch’s $5 billion purchase of the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones news service in 2007 as an example that validates that the old business model lives on. Looking more closely, even this acquisition confirms that digital ones and zeroes are changing Journalism forever. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rupert_Murdoch

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Murdoch bought the globe’s largest newspaper, the industry’s most valued brand and with it, a record 1-million-plus paid Internet subscribers. He also acquired the publication most closely connected with the 95 million Americans constituting the “Investor Class” (and millions more international investors). The impressive growth in day traders and retail investors largely resulted from the invention of the Internet, the availability of online digital investing tools and the dot.com euphoria. Murdoch bought a brand. He bought an Internet savvy audience. And he tapped into the Investor class. He did not buy a printing press and an antiquated business model.

“Society doesn’t need newspapers,” Shirky concluded. “What we need is Journalism…When we shift our attention from ‘save newspapers’ to ‘save society,’ the imperative changes from ‘preserve the current institutions’ to ‘do whatever works.” And what works today isn’t the same as what used to work.”

So what works today? If you look at Journalism through a supply-and-demand prism, you can safely conclude that the demand for fair, complete and objective information is there and quite possibly has never been greater. The question comes down on one of supply; exactly how will this supply be provided to the public?

One answer comes in the form of 24-7-365 news networks, such as CNN, Fox News, BBC and others that can instantaneously cover any flash point in the world.  There is no such thing as the first edition “going to bed at 11 pm.” Another related response comes in the form of specialized around-the-clock broadcast networks, such as CNBC for global financial news, ESPN for sports, E for the Entertainment business, VH1 for music and the list is almost endless.

Some contended that the golden age of radio ended with the proliferation of television in the 1950s and 1960s. Whatever happened to these social critics? Radio is enjoying a renaissance, particularly when you consider that sociological impact of longer commute patterns and the almost kinship between motorists/public transportation riders and their “drive-time” companions.

The Internet has served as the backdrop for a growing array of bloggers, some of them written by very serious journalists weighing-in conclusively on politics, government, business, sports, entertainment and the environment. Their names are famous within their appointed disciplines such as the Drudge Report, Huffington Post, Daily Kos, RedState, The TMZ, Gizmodo, RealClearPolitics, TechCrunch and the Silicon Valley Watcher.

Social media is still in its infancy as LinkedIn debuted in 2003, Facebook, 2004 and Twitter, 2006. Imitators or pioneers with brand new approaches and business plans will inevitably follow. The net result is that the average citizen has an unprecedented ability to self publish. If you don’t believe this contention, then just ask Dan Rather who “retired” as a result of bloggers and the 2004 Rathergate controversy.

The future of Journalism does not just rely on machines that are either plugged into a wall or are battery-powered handheld devices, albeit the trend toward receiving our content electronically – radio, television, PC, hand-held – grows with every passing day.

Satisfying the insatiable and growing public demand for news and information lies with professionals who in the words of another NYU Professor, Jay Rosen, have the authority to say, “I’m there, you’re not, let me tell you about it.”

The “I’m there” reporter can be stationed next to the flood-lit portico at the White House, against the backdrop of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square, on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, at centre court at Wimbledon or an average citizen holding a video camera as a BART officer is shooting Oscar Grant on New Year’s night at the Fruitvale Station in Oakland, California.Train Station Shooting

As a result of the effects of Moore’s Law, and not Gutenberg’s printing press, we can all be there. Potentially we can all tell the story. Knowledge is power, and we need this power to go about our daily lives and to be better informed and more productive citizens.

Regardless of the business model, the principles outlined by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel in “Elements of Journalism” still apply. The public needs and expects reports that are dependable, verifiable, measurable and transparent. “Journalism is story telling with a purpose.”

Whether that purposeful story is told via an outdated printing press or via social media is really irrelevant, except to those desperately clinging to the old way of doing business. What is more important is fulfilling the public’s need for accurate information, being there and transmitting the news…most likely by means of 21st Century innovation and a new business model.

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