About a year ago, I counted the number of periodicals to which I subscribed. The count was staggering: 47. (This included 40 magazines, 4 journals, and 3 newspapers.) Today, probably because of the internet, that number has shrunk drastically. My entire current subscription list has eight titles: The New Yorker, New York Observer, Art Byte, The Wire, Spin, Mean, Wired, and The Nation.
Gone, somewhat randomly, are Mother Jones and The New Republic and New Left Review. Gone are EW and Punk Planet and Columbia Journalism Review. Gone: the Sunday New York Times. In some capacity, I still read them all, but now I do it online.
Some might say this makes me an emblem of what's wrong with the current state of publishing. When I can get it for free, why should I bother subscribing? (Caveat: I still purchase about 10 mags off the newsstand per month, and I subscribe to The Nation more out of a sense of charity than anything else.)
Actually, to be fair to myself and the medium, money has nothing to do with it. It's convenience that wins. I'll always need a magazine or two to drag around from place to place. The ability to carry a periodical -- it's transportability -- really matters. But that transportability only accommodates a small amount of the media I now consume. Everything else, I consume behind a computer monitor (sometimes printing it, but not always).
What does this mean for the future of media? Some online newspapers (and other purely-web-based content providers) are toying with a subscription-based models. Despite that, I see hope in a future in which 1) print publications won't suffer or die and 2) online content will still remain free. What hope?
Radio may be the most resilient medium of the information revolution. For a significant part of the last century, radio was the medium. When TV came along, radio had to adjust to find its niche. There was no mastermind behind this evolution. Radio just adapted to become, simply, the transportation medium. I don't know if anyone has the statistics, but I bet the vast majority of radio consumption occurs in the car.
And, I might add, it's all free. (If I were to expand upon this rant, there would also be a section for the alternative press, which is still mostly free and hugely important.)
Newspapers and magazines and whatever else will all do the same thing: adapt. This is why all those idiots who prophesied "the death of print", just don't understand the evolution of information. The machine is just too big to toss off causalities. No one ever dies. The machine finds room for everything to survive. Just because the internet came along doesn't mean that tv or radio or newspapers are going to perish. They might suffer a slight hit, but they'll be around decades from now, in forms not-to-dissimilar from what you currently read.
Go ahead, contest me. (I was hoping to have dicussion boards available by this time to debate such topics, but of course I don't yet. For now, you can only call me an idiot through email.)