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April 2, 2011

High And Low, But Squeezed In The Middle

Jeff-Healey-Band-Stuck-In-The-Midd-422856.jpegI love this post by InsideHigherEd's Josh Kim.
Physical things that exist as single-use conduits of information (paper books, paper newspapers, paper magazines) and physical places that are containers or platforms for information delivery (college campuses, bookstores) will persist, and even thrive. However, for these physical conduits and containers to survive, they will either need to move far up-market, or way down-market.

Books made of paper will need to be either really beautiful and offer a superior tactile experience, or they will need to be very cheaply produced on thin paper and be basically disposable. I'll be less price sensitive to a paper copy of the NYTimes or a magazine if real attention is paid to the quality of the design, layout, paper, and printing. Or I'll pick-up a free paper newspaper that I may or may not read, and will be skimmed and thrown away.

What I will not buy is any one-time conduit of information (book, magazine, newspaper) that is somewhere in the middle. Too expensive to easily throw away, but too cheaply made to want to keep in my collection.
Wasn't it ever thus? In the Old World, newspapers were low end and books high. Books were solid and substantial, with nice covers and extravagant paper. Newspapers had crappy paper, lousy print quality and ink that rubbed off on your hands. Newspapers were cheap, timely and disposable; they offered something you couldn't get elsewhere, so we bought them.

Might this idea not also apply to arts criticism in the digital world? Low end is easy; Yelp, Amazon, Facebook. "Like" this, become a "fan" of that. Digg, Stumble, Reddit to identify and elevate the "best" content. The "opinions" are disposable (and often worth about as much). And the high end? Can anyone replace a Hilton Als or Carlin Romano essay or a Jonathan Gold food walk? 

So what about a sustainable middle? There was one - magazines, which had glossy paper, beautiful design and brilliant photos, and we paid more for them than we did for newspapers. But those daily newspaper reviews whose value more often than not rarely exceeded  documentation that a show took place? There doesn't appear to be much of an audience for them. Maybe there's a sustainable middle for arts criticism, but so far I'm not seeing it.
April 2, 2011 6:17 PM | | Comments (0)

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