I read this article on why it's OK for newspapers to die with great interest the other day.  For one, I was very, very close to majoring in Journalism in undergrad.  But I got involved in a startup and found my calling elsewhere.  Second, I was a junior Founder of one of the first successful web publications… where we similarly struggled with controlling costs (through operating efficiency) and revenues (through Internet advertising) years ago.  And now, we've built a product in MinutesNotice that may provide a compelling Internet Advertising complement to traditional print advertising in newspapers.  More on that later.

Unlike the author of the article, I am not eager to see newspapers go.  I don't revel in the creative destruction, that in this case IMO isn't necessarily positive. I don't think that new Web 2.0 products, technologies like blogging, and hyperlocal businesses will even remotely fill the void either for that matter.  Sure, information about community events could be covered by bloggers in their spare time.  But can community, hobbyist journalism effectively serve as a watchdog over our public officials?  Hell, most people I know are far more concerned about their happy hour plans than they are the actions of their local, elected officials. Good journalism takes time. Investigative reporting takes time.  I'm all for modernizing businesses & making things more efficient, but I worry that in this case we may just do it at the expense of the public good.  Put differently, if the ROI isn't immediately obvious for something like local investigative journalism — are we really better off to see it killed?

It's kinda "macho" or popular to say in our Web entrepreneur circles that creative destruction is great.  As long as the world continues to get better, cheaper, and faster, everything will work out.  A lot of folks are laughing at the local newspaper industry & hoping that it dies.  For a lot of other businesses, I'd ordinarily agree.  But I do believe in the societal benefit of local journalism, and I don't think the world would be a better place without it.

Local newspapers are a mere microcosm of what is happening more broadly with the Web… i.e. the mature Web as a truly deflationary phenomenon.  We may just be at a point in history where the pace of creative destruction likely exceeds the capacity of the economy to reinvent itself.  That may bode well for some of us, and it probably explains the vibrant environment of SXSW this past week.  But it's likely to result in more "winner-take-all" situations in business… an American society more divided between "haves" and "have nots".  Are you ready for a dramatically reduced Middle Class?  I'm perhaps overexagerrating, but in my opinion we're in uncharted territory here.