Vanity Fair media columnist Michael Wolff said today he'd be surprised if newsmagazines like Newsweek survive the next half-decade, given how much the print media have been squeezed by the shift of readers to online.
"We're looking at our own obsolescence," he told his fellow panelists at an I Want Media forum on "The Future of Media" held as part of the first ever Internet Week in New York City. "If Newsweek is around in five years, I'll buy you dinner."
"The days of 'Extra! Extra! Read All About it!' are gone and never coming back," said New York Post media reporter Keith Kelly. Newspapers, he added, have to "reevaluate how they do news."
Because stories like the Eliot Spitzer scandal are increasingly being broken online, newspapers have started encroaching on the traditional space of weeklies.
"On a daily basis we're trying to put out a newsmagazine like you guys did 20 years ago," New York Times media columnist David Carr said to Newsweek senior writer Johnnie L. Roberts.
The advertising base for the ink-and-paper media has rapidly shrunk in the past couple of years, as more readers opt to get their news from online aggregators like Google and annotators like Newser (which was founded by Wolff). The sources of the original reporting have begun suffer.
"This is good for nobody, except maybe the consumer who gets a lot for free," said Wolff. "It has no economic model, and nobody really gets paid for it."
Erick Schonfeld, who made the switch from print to blogging last year when he left Business 2.0 to help run TechCrunch, revealed his own ambivalence about aggregators like Google. The search engine can sometimes help bloggers by bringing them a wider audience, but it can also undermine them from profiting off their labor. He called Google his "frenemy."
Likewise, Roberts noted that bloggers can often draw more attention to a print story by linking to it, even though they also often set the agenda. "Blogs are like megaphones," he said.
Whether or not the print media will be able to adapt to the changing media landscape, there's no question that news has become one of the main uses for the web.
"Nothing beats it," said Carr. "Maybe porn. But not by much."