The Millipede Marches On

Recent columns focus on various matters of the news industries with an eye toward information especially as it is associated with collectors and their collecting; with neither reason nor excuse for the collecting behavior offered.

Following the comings and goings in the news business is a full-time job. Today, it’s a little like watching a millipede and waiting for the other 999 shoes to drop.

Just last week, within days of one another, two major U.S. newspapers gained new owners.

Most recently, Jeff Bezos of Amazon became the owner (at $250 million, cash) of The Washington Post. Just a short while before that announcement, The Boston Globe was sold ($70 million, also cash; the NY Times paid $1.1 billion for the Globe in 1993) to John Henry, owner of the Boston Red Sox and who had made his fortune through his hedge fund.

Among collectors, several periodicals have for years served their information needs.

Nationally, Antiques & The Arts Weekly (or “The Bee” as it is often named) and Maine Antique Digest (a monthly) offer authoritative information, albeit each with a different slant.

Regional publications, including the New York-Pennsylvania Collector, though carving out a geographically distinct audience, provide a similar information service. (Disclosure: I have written for the Collector for more than 25 years.)

The three antiques publications named above all report on the results of auctions at which antiques and fine/decorative arts are sold, shows at which antiques are displayed and offered for sale, book reviews pertinent to antiques, feature stories on one dimension or another of antiques and collecting, and advertisements for antiques auctions, shows, and dealers and their merchandise.

The news mission of the antiques trade papers differs from those of daily newspapers only in focus. Though, some critics argue, standards for the journalism produced differs between the two sets of publications.

What are we to make of last week’s news about the turnover of daily newspaper ownership in the nation’s top five markets?

If nothing else – and there certainly is much more – what Amazon has wrought in the media marketplace is uniformity of pricing and service and, to a certain extent, point of purchase.

The competition, then, is for content and is less for price point, where one buys the content or how the content is packaged, or how the content is delivered.

Content, as the saying goes, may indeed be King. But power has shifted to the Knights of distribution.

Does the Amazonization of publishing matter?

One place to begin for an answer is to ask a book publisher – or a book publisher that’s still in the business of publishing books.

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