The Future of the Newspaper and the Modern Colonial Tavern

There has been much written about how digital is broadly changing news dissemination, but beyond simple replacement of the paper alternative and an acceleration of “news” to satisfy an always-on consumer, I think there is a deeper change afoot.

Yes, “traditional news” is undergoing significant change through the direct and indirect influences of digitization – something that has largely been well covered.  But an always-on digital consumer is also driving other changes outside the newsroom. For example, immediately following the Boston bombings, the Boston Globe set-up a spreadsheet (ok technically a Google doc) on their site where individuals could post offers for help and those seeking could find help.  The Globe has left the doc online as a tribute to all those who offered up help the ensuing aftermath.

In this small example, I see the role of the newspaper changing.  While it seeks to remain an important distribution platform for news it might also find relevancy elsewhere. In the early history of the United States, the colonial tavern was a physical place for news dissemination – something that was largely replaced by newspapers as the young nation urbanized.  But beyond just news dissemination it was also often the physical hub of the community.   Newspapers are well positioned to reinvent themselves – doing what the Globe did – and being the digital hub of the underlying communities.