Old Media Should Just Burn The Boats

Advice (good or bad – what do you think?) from tech guru Marc Andreessen, that all of us at disinformation® will be discussing endlessly this week, I am sure, reported by Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch:

Legend has it that when Cortes landed in Mexico in the 1500s, he ordered his men to burn the ships that had brought them there to remove the possibility of doing anything other than going forward into the unknown. Marc Andreessen has the same advice for old media companies: “Burn the boats.”

Yesterday, Andreessen was in New York City and we met up. We got to talking about how media companies are handling the digital disruption of the Internet when he brought up the Cortes analogy. In particular, he was talking about print media such as newspapers and magazines, and his longstanding recommendation that they should shut down their print editions and embrace the Web wholeheartedly. “You gotta burn the boats,” he told me, “you gotta commit.” His point is that if traditional media companies don’t burn their own boats, somebody else will.

Andreessen once famously put the New York Times on deathwatch for its stubborn insistence on trying to save and prolong its legacy print business. With all the recent excitement in media quarters recently over Apple’s upcoming iPad and other tablet computers, and their potential to create a market for paid digital versions and subscriptions of newspapers and magazines, I wondered if Andreessen still felt the same way. Does he think the iPad will change anything?

Andreessen asked me if TechCrunch is working on an iPad app or planning on putting up a paywall. I gave him a blank stare. He laughed and noted that none of the newer Web publications (he’s an investor in the Business Insider) are either. “”All the new companies are not spending a nanosecond on the iPad or thinking of ways to charge for content. The older companies, that is all they are thinking about.”

But people pay for apps. Wouldn’t he pay for a beautiful touchscreen version of a magazine? Maybe, if it were something genuinely new that blew him away…

[continues at TechCrunch]

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  • ebwolf

    While the idea is very interesting, the problem is that there is still a substantial portion of the population raised on print newspapers and magazines who are not ready to give themselves over to online news media.
    While I'm comfortable with either medium as a source of information, it was the sports pages and magazines that first taught me to read as a young boy. I know there is no logical reason, but there is something about the tactile sense of turning the pages or holding a well organized magazine in my hands that online media just doesn't satisfy.
    For better or worse, it will probably take at least another generation before print is phased out.

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