SMUG Textbook: Here Comes Everybody

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, by Clay Shirky.

I read this book more than a year ago, and it has significantly affected my thinking. Shirky’s main point is that complex projects formerly required the overhead of an organization, which meant that there had to be some way of funding that overhead, either through business profits or government taxation. The advent of digital tools has made complex projects possible without the organizational overhead. Some of these, such as Linux or Wikipedia or Craigslist, have seriously challenged or even “beaten” the products of formerly profitable organizations. But these tools have also made it possible to undertake projects that previously weren’t worth doing. In a section he calls “The Tectonic Shift,” Shirky explains:

For most of modern life, our strong talents and desires for group effort have been filtered through relatively rigid institutional structures because of the complexity of managing groups. We haven’t had all the groups we’ve wanted, we’ve simply had all the groups we could afford. The old limits of what unmanaged and unpaid groups can do are no longer in operation; the difficulties that kep self-assembled groups from working together are shrinking, meaning that the number and kinds of things groups can get done without financial motivation or managerial oversight are growing.

You will find traces of Here Comes Everybody in many of the 35 Social Media Theses. I highly recommend it to all SMUGgles.

The Black Magic of Compounded Newspaper Losses

It hasn’t been a good decade for newspapers, but the last month has been especially bad.

It’s not like last year was good. The San Francisco Chronicle‘s ad revenue was down 8 percent last year, and is now about 12 percent below that pace. The Times says the Chronicle is losing about $1 million a week.

In school we learned about “The Magic of Compound Interest.” The magic for newspapers must feel like something straight out of Mordor.

Compounding losses have a way of spiraling. Ad revenue falls, so papers cut back on staff and on the number of pages. The paper is less compelling, so circulation falls. Advertisers won’t pay the high prices for reduced reach, so revenue falls still further.

Add to this the general trend among younger people to not read the newspaper, and on-line alternatives such as eBay, Craigslist and that are claiming an ever-larger share of what was formerly a classified advertising monopoly for newspapers, and the situation looks quite bleak.

It’s hard to know which of these trends started first, but Clay Shirky has a good analysis of the monster forces conspiring against the newspaper business in Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations. I hope to write a review in the coming days; it’s quite insightful.

It will be difficult for my review to do it justice, though,  and besides, I might not get to it for a while. So you should just go ahead and order it today.

I’ve got a Podcasting curriculum to finish.