Closing the Times-Picayune down four days a week
in New Orleans is apparently a smart business move. (Why else would so
many other newspaper chains be following Si Newhouse's lead in
reinterpreting the definition of a daily -- making it the hottest idea
in journalism since the invention of classified ads?) So maybe other
popular sources of information could learn something by following the
Newhouse dictum that three, or less, is enough.
Advance Publications' decision was based on evidence, such as
declining circulation, that except for old fogeys addicted to
Neolithic-age print technology, the public was being better served by
digital and other trendy news sources.
It follows, then, that even more wildly popular sources of
enlightenment, news, and fun in the name of changing habits might
benefit from the Less is Less formulation. TV immediately comes to mind.
Watching television today on TV sets is already irrelevant. Aside
from technonerds who cling to their increasingly supersized, thin, and
expensive TV sets, behavior in TVkind has changed alarmingly over the
past decade. People are leaving a once beloved can't-live-without-it
medium like rats leaving a sinking ship. As you may have noticed, people
watch TV today on their computers, iPads, cellphones... I watch it on
my electric toothbrush. (Have you ever tried it?)
Traditional networks as a source of programming are being replaced by Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX), iTunes, Hulu LLC , and octopus networksplus like NBC Universal and Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX).
Theoretically, TV is based on giving the public what it wants. With
the occasional exception, the best creative talent money can buy make
shows that invariably fail. It's always the same old sitcom with new
faces and jokes about peeing, same old Law & Order
procedural knockoffs, and Reality TV. The only thing that still works is
live sports, although the masses are starting to feel like asses
overpaying for their Pay-per-View. Even worse, the audience of sheep is
not slavishly absorbing commercial messages any more. It's time for the
industry to find a new business model.
Not much would be lost if TV went dark several days a week, like newspapers.
Going dark works in theatres. When something is good enough to invest
money in, a new production opens. It becomes a major event. If it is
truly what the public wants, not just a schedule stuffer, money pours
Going dark would be TV's major contribution to public health. TV is a
major source of obesity today. Modern programming often seems like a
series of junk food commercials, interrupted by some occasional scenes.
Following the newspaper good citizenship logic, ultimately the medium
that could contribute the most to civilization by switching to a
part-time basis would be the Internet. Why should the Internet be on
Look at all the money corporations, to pick one group at random,
would save if The Internet went dark a day or two a week as a starter.
No more surfing by employees in the privacy of their cubicles. No more
checking Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) for important news. No more playing games. No more accidentally stopping on a porn channel or whatever on company time.
And what will eventually replace the Internet? I don't know. Someone will think of something.