Monday, December 06, 2004

The Writing is on the Wall

Everyone seems to be predicting the end of newspapers as we know them.

Today the WaPo has a story by Amy Argetsinger titled California Enclave Tires of Being Artsy. It discusses a story first published here and in other Internet art sites and BLOGs several weeks ago, but just making it to the newsprint pages of the WaPo. Chances are that quite a significant percentage of the Post’s readers may have been already exposed to this story.

How can the WaPo and other lamestream media survive the future? it is not a matter of if, but of when, and the future (as George Carlin said) is just now becoming the past.

But the WaPo (and some other newspapers) can (and must) adapt and they will survive if they do so.

The WaPo has made two smart moves already, but a third, and very important one is needed if it is to check-mate its own future demise. I will tell them, by the end of this posting, what they need to do.

The first good move that they made was their decision to go online a few years ago. Incredibly enough, that decision (I am told) was made pretty much against the will of the corporate hierarchy, which thought that going online was a waste of money and would shrink newspaper subscriptions. It’s a good thing that more visionary thinkers won that battle and that the WaPo went online. Subscriptions to the Post have declined substantially, but that is a trend that has affected all newspapers, regardless of website presence.

Now their website receives near a million visitors a day, and generates substantial income for the paper through banner advertising and those annoying pop-up ads.

The second smart move was to create the Express, which although free, is widely read by the morning commuter crowd. It is made of short, quickly read, stories, highlights, etc. As I’ve discussed here before, it is interesting to me that a small mention of an exhibition in the Express generates substantially higher number of inquiries and attendance than a full fledged review in the Post.

So how can the Washington Post prevent their imminent dismissal as a source of news, information, opinion and culture (cough, cough)?

Simple: Marry the two concepts!

Actually, not just marry the two concepts, but expand on them! Have the marriage yield a child, an issue; a WaPo Saviour, if you will.

This is what they have to do: Expand the printed version of the paper, with its army of editors stuck in “this is how things have been done” land, with a fresher, rawer, online version. Not just an online version of their print version, but that plus online-unique content.

For example, in their much criticized and anemic coverage of the arts, they could augment the various fields and genres of art with online columns, reviews, commentary, photography, and yes even BLOGs! All the major cable news programs and cable newscasters are already doing this – it is the lamestream media that doesn’t seem to get in step with the 21st century.

And this can be done without reproducing their bricks and mortar hierarchical structure that publishes their old fashioned newsprint edition. An online Post writer – freelancers all of them, I would assume – would never have to set foot inside 1150 15th Street, NW. No need for secretaries, no need for assistants, etc Just online editors whose job would be editing and editing alone; the software handles the rest.

Biggest obstacle in this idea (other than the mindset of an old fashioned business empire rapidly declining?): The unions, I suspect.

The Gallery at Flashpoint Call for Proposals

Deadline: Friday, January 21, 2005.

The Cultural Development Corporation (CuDC) is requesting proposals for exhibitions in the Gallery at Flashpoint for the September 2005 to August 2006 season. This request is open to artists, independent curators, arts organizations, private galleries or anyone choosing to present contemporary work in any medium. Deadline for proposals is 6pm Friday, January 21, 2005.

For a 2005-2006 Request for Proposal application, please visit their website or email them

ArtHelps Charity Art Auction

Faith Flanagan passes that ArtHelps will be having their Fourth Annual Art Auction and Reception for Charity with DCAC as one of its beneficiaries. The auction is on Wednesday, December 8, from 5:00pm to 10:00pm. It will be held at JAM Communications, 1638 R Street, NW Suite 400, Washington, DC 20009.

Please take a moment to view the ArtHelps website and download a donation form, and you can designate DCAC as your charity. If you have any questions, please give Faith a call at 202/744-8770.