Warren Buffett is hardly the stereotypical newspaper tycoon. He’s never said anything crazy like, “You provide the pictures, and I’ll provide the war.” He’s never tried to pass off the New York Post or Fox News as credible journalism. He never bought MySpace.
So, when we find The Washington Post–where Buffett’s majority shareholder–covering his very public proclamation that newspapers are a bad investment, one has to wonder: are traditional publishers reaching a breaking point or a tipping point?
When Charlie [Munger, Berkshire Hathaway's vice chairman] and I were young, the newspaper business was as easy a way to make huge returns as existed in America,” Buffett wrote in the letter, which was released Thursday.
…In today’s economy, Buffett wrote: “Simply put, if cable and satellite broadcasting, as well as the Internet, had come along first, newspapers as we know them probably would never have existed.”
Not exactly what you’d call “irrational exuberance,” is it? What now of the Post‘s “follow the money” credo? Forget following the money; the Post will be lucky if Buffett bothers to help them find it–and he always does.
How fitting, then, that the other big newspapers news this week came from USA Today, whose social media-driven redesign launch broke the first rule of journalism: it became the news. Or has journalism–that quaint pursuit of factual, topical, news-related storytelling–been so worn down by new media that “become the news” has itself become the first rule of Whateverism 2.0? (And, please, folks, don’t use that one until, at the very least, it’s properly anointed by Stephen Colbert. See also: “Truthiness“)
Long before YouTube and Paris Hilton, Andy Warhol predicted that, one day, everyone would enjoy 15 minutes of fame. Maybe it’s time we all fully grokked this statement for what it’s become: our era’s most profound inside joke.
Laugh it up, Andy… Laugh it up.