“Can the A-word save the news?”

So asks Michael Wolff in the latest Vanity Fair, in which he both plugs and details the building of his latest swing at a web venture, Newser.

Can the A-word [algorithm] save the news? Because, in its various current forms, the news—as a habituating, slightly fetishistic, more or less entertaining experience that defines a broad common interest—is ending. Newspapers, the network evening news, newsmagazines, even 24-hour cable news channels, these providers and packagers of the news, are imperiled media (even if Murdoch has spent $5 billion on The Wall Street Journal). The news is technologically obsolete—information envelops us, competing for our attention, hence fewer and fewer people (read: younger people) feel any need to seek it out. This has resulted in a rapidly aging audience for all news media—the adult-diaper crowd—which is sending advertisers scurrying to find more energetic buyers. The view among newspeople is that this is a chronic condition: for 40 years there’s been a falling off of the news audience, something on the order of 1 percent a year. Not good, but we in news can make it to retirement. In the last three years, however, that gradual decline has turned into a mud slide. It’s suddenly almost 10 percent a year and growing. We won’t make it.

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