Jonah Goldberg

Some smart "netrepreneur" should get to work on a parody song titled "Bloggers Killed the Newspaper Star."

The original MTV generation will get the reference to days gone by when the network ran these strange things called "music videos." The first video MTV ran was "Video Killed the Radio Star." If you haven't noticed, that didn't quite pan out. Radio surely has its problems, but it's still around. Meanwhile, MTV is now basically a "lifestyle" network, running programming remarkably similar to that of PBS, A&E and other "adult" - in the non-porn sense - networks. Sure, MTV packages its wares differently, but if you can look past the exposed navels, pierced faces and butt tattoos, you're less judgmental than I am.

But, seriously, MTV's programmers are basically recyclers: The network's vast wasteland of reality shows for wastoids, including "Pimp My Ride," "Trippin' " "Punk'd," and "Cribs," are hardly path-breaking. Networks have been running shows about cars, homes, exotic travel and practical jokes for 50 years. (Does no one remember "Candid Camera?") For all their radical chic, MTV's fans are just like the past generations they so desperately want to transcend.

This should serve as a cautionary tale for those who are betting big on the doomsday scenarios being peddled about the implosion of the newspaper industry, as well as to those who await the triumph of the so-called "blogosphere." The more the media seems to change, the more its underlying patterns keep reemerging. There's truly nothing new under the sun.

A slew of Chicken Little reports have warned of late that newspapers are on the decline, as evidenced by the latest numbers showing that in the 6-month period ending in March, major newspaper circulation dropped nearly 2 percent - 900,000 fewer subscribers nationwide since last year. Meanwhile, the Internet is no longer the Rodney Dangerfield of media. According to Advertising Age, the combined ad revenues of Google and Yahoo! will be on par with the combined revenues of ABC, CBS and NBC.

There's no denying that the media landscape is changing right before our eyes. But, then, it has never stopped changing. Newspapers have been in decline for more than two decades - since long before the Internet became a media player. The "Big Three" nightly news broadcasts have been bleeding viewers for a long time as well. Today the average age of the nightly network news viewer is 60 and rising, while the share of viewers under the age of 35 is less than 10 percent. CBS News is contemplating ideas to get younger viewers, but it's hard to see how anyone watching "Pimp My Ride" is going to switch to "CBS Evening News with Bob Schieffer," even if the camera work is da bomb.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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