Jeff Jarvis mentions an incident last month when Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger casually told him that the paper’s costly new Berliner printing plant “may be the last presses we ever own.”
Jarvis is impressed by the Guardian and several other European publishers (like German publishers Burda and Bertelsmann)
that are concentrating on their digital future and contrasts this to the situation in America:
Then I landed back home in the U.S., where too many of the newspaper editors and publishers I know of still hold dear to their identities as publishers — proprietors of presses, printers on paper, owners of content, controllers of distribution, beneficiaries of monopolies. Publishers, damnit. Newspaper publishers.
But there are there are plenty of European editors who seem to share their American counterparts’ attiture, not least right here in London.
The British newspapers have so far seem to have avoided the upheaval currently being experienced by their American counterparts. As forward-looking as the Guardian may be, not everyone is as enamoured of the Internet as Rusbridger, as a recent Vanity Fair article pointed out:
The Guardian’s hauteur … has to do with the Web: the paper has been technologically adept, even visionary in an industry that, especially in Britain, temperamentally exists in another age.
Its Web business—which, prior to the size war, was its determined answer to the future of newspapers—has made The Guardian one of the leading liberal international voices, never more so than since the start of the Iraq war. Free from U.S.-centricity (and Washington influence), The Guardian has come to rival The New York Times as global liberal paper of record. (Much like The New York Times, whose ownership is dominated by a family trust, The Guardian is owned by a trust whose mission is to safeguard the quality of the paper.)
But this is London, and say what you want about the Internet and the new “information brand” age, the game here remains very much un-postmodern: it’s circulation, circulation, circulation.
Now, Simon Kelner at The Independent, Britain’s also-ran left-leaning paper … who audaciously began the size war, does not exactly have contempt for The Guardian … but he’s certainly impatient with its airs.
Kelner is Rusbridger’s opposite in class, style, and affect: he’s an outsider, Jewish, a proud and consummate old-school newspaper hack … About, for instance, the Internet, he could care less. Kelner, at 47, is all newsroom and page makeup. He sees news, in newspapering fashion, not as a pure ideal or professional standard—the view of The New York Times, journalism schools, and, Kelner might argue, The Guardian—but as a competitive act. Newspapers, Kelner and almost everybody else in London would happily point out, may be more accurate and truthful in the competitionless U.S. (most U.S. daily papers are in one-city-one-paper monopoly markets) but are so much less lively and profitable and have so many fewer loyal readers than in the cutthroat U.K. “I’m a newspaperman,” says Kelner. “I like to sell newspapers.”
And until the days that selling newsprint is no longer more profitable than selling banner ads, that attitude is not going to go away — on either side of the Atlantic.