My pal Hugh McGuire — you probably know him from Librivox, he swears on his blog too — wrote a post with some words to the wise: Defining What You Are For (just like porn). He explains how one of the reasons porn is so darned profitable is “[b]ecause the porn biz understands exactly what it is for” and then wonders if other institutions like newspapers and libraries really understand what they are for. It’s not primarily a post about libraries, but since Hugh is the president of the Board of Directors of the Atwater Library (a library with a drupal website and an apartment inside it, those who know me know that I hyperventilate as I type this) this is a topic near and dear to him.
But the real value a newspaper performs is not giving me good articles, it’s putting it all together. The mere provision of information is worthless now, because anyone can do it (even me).
This is why blogs – at least in the techno-intelligencia – win. Blogs are excellent selectors of information, while newspapers are pretty clunky at it – because for the past 300 years they existed in an ecosystem where information was scarce. Now information (and access to it) is abundant. So a site like BoingBoing becomes one of the most popular on the net: their craft is not providing information, it’s selecting it. And they’re good at it.