Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Daily Planet

The announcement that AOL has acquired The Huffington Post falls on the heels of the merger of Newsweek and The Daily Beast. So a new formula is emerging. Take a moribund media enterprise (AOL, Newsweek) and unite forces with a mordant one and you have … what? In chemistry by definition it's well nigh impossible to create compounds with inert substances, so presumably neither AOL nor Newsweek are deemed to be inert, though previously both were looked at as dying businesses whose major markets were a far cry from the 25-35 demographic most advertisers crave. A good part of AOL’s business is still the dial-up crowd of assisted livers, and Newsweek is most likely found in the reception area of gerontology offices. However, to invoke another rule of science, if two negatives make a positive, what about a negative and a faint glimmer of hope? Particularly in the case of the AOL and Huffington Post molecule, there is lots of hope. Right now print journalism is in the dementia stage which precedes the death rattle, and many of those who have foresworn their Times subscriptions have been left to fend for themselves in the anarchy of the blogosphere, where subjective perceptions by unlicensed mental health practitioners define the quality of news analysis. Something had to give, both in terms of the product produced and who was producing it. When the dust settles, the grand old newspapers of the past are bound to be replaced by a new journalism with its own technologies and mythologies. Perhaps these two mergers are harbingers of change.

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