I love The New York Times, the best newspaper in the world. There is no greater pleasure than sitting out on the patio on a Sunday morning, reading The New York Times, and learning.
I stress the word learning because there are so few places left in our world where true discovery happens. Most of the time, marketers, computers, and even our friends are showing us more of what we already know we like, rather than introducing us to things we have never seen or heard of before.
In the pages of The New York Times, I can be introduced to people, places, events, ideas I would have never found on my own. Every day I read The Times I learn something new. The paper expands my understanding of the world rather than reflecting back to me the understanding I already have.
This is an incredibly valuable service. It is a service that very few media companies in the world still provide (my local paper, the Raleigh News and Observer, rarely does these days, sadly).
Yet, the ongoing conversation about how to solve the financial issues of The New York Times revolves around fixing the business model for newspapers. Most experts say the model is fundamentally broken, and a report released last week by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism doesn’t have a lot of good news for the future of journalism as a whole.
From my vantage point, the answer to fixing The New York Times will not come from exploring a revolutionary business model. It will come from a revolutionary brand, culture, and community model. Let me explain.
I have a decent (and still growing) LP collection, and my turntable gets almost daily use. In fact, I often buy music on vinyl rather than downloading it or buying CDs.
One of my recent vinyl purchases was Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys. Probably one of the greatest albums of all time, but it wasn’t until I heard it on LP that I really felt like I started to get it. There was something about listening to it in the way it would have been listened to when it came out in 1966. Pops, crackles, and Brian Wilson just felt right together.
But as I’ve made my way around music stores, I’ve noticed the number of brand new releases coming out on vinyl seems to be increasing. And I’ve also seen many bands going (on purpose) for a lower fidelity sound.
“I’m a real lo-fi junkie,” [Stuart McLamb] says. “I like the [Band’s] Big Pink philosophy — you should have a dog on the floor of a basement while you’re recording. That’s where the best stuff happens.”
A dog on the floor, man! Not some fancy studio in New York City run by rich guys in suits named Hunter and Cody. The places where the dog is invited is where the best stuff happens.
Where am I going with this? I believe that there is a lo-fi movement not only in music but in communications more broadly that continues to gain momentum. Communications that are too high fidelity may not be viewed as trustworthy anymore. Take this quote from the Wikipedia page for “Low fidelity”:
Yesterday at the Coach K Leadership Conference, James McCaffrey of Turner Broadcasting gave a talk about leadership in a technology disrupted organization. He talked a lot about the evolution of the Turner brands, including CNN, Turner Classic Movies, TNT and the rest, in the face of massive change in the media industry. Sometimes we forget just how fundamentally the way people consume news, information, and entertainment has been revolutionized over the last few years, and this talk really got me thinking.
James showed a couple of videos I thought were freakin’ awesome. The first is called Did You Know, and it does an fabulous job of conveying the scale of change. I’d seen the original, but had never seen this version:
And the second video is laugh out loud funny. A quick look at how the media would have covered the moon landing if it happened today.