levinHere’s another new media magnate warning old media that the time is nigh to ditch the old print and jump into the new electronic world. Harvey Levin, founder of entertainment news site TMZ.com, spoke at the National Press Club on Monday where he told newspaper and magazine publishers to get out of the print business and get on the web.

As the Washington Post points out, it does take some chutzpah for Levin to issue prescriptions to traditional news media, given that most celebrity gossip isn’t exactly Pulitzer-quality journalism. But on the other hand, in the six years since its launch, TMZ has become one of the most popular entertainment news websites in the world, getting 20 million unique visitors every month, and has broken a number of big stories—so maybe Levin is onto something after all.

Of course, the particular advice in question is hardly new—last year, Netscape founder Marc Andreesen also suggested print media should move into the electronic world and “burn the boats” behind it. On the other hand, plenty people still do read traditional print media.

It can be tricky to tell whether it’s too early or too late to dump physical media. Waiting too long killed Blockbuster and nearly killed Kodak. On the other hand, Netflix’s attempt to make a bold move forward and dump its traditional DVD side backfired badly, sending its stock price into a tailspin. Only time will tell whether (and which) newspapers make the leap in time or hang on until it’s too late.


  1. I have been saying for a couple of years that publishers should be working on killing the paperback and offering only two forms of books: ebooks and hardcover. The chorus grows larger and the mantra gets louder to do so.

    Publishers are so befuddled by surrounding events that they have no idea what path to take and have no spine to take any path that might actually be beneficial for them over the longer term. This is the one time when I think publishers need to mimic Amazon and think long-term rather than next quarter. Alas, Amazon will ultimately sweep the big publishers away because it is willing to take a risk rather than sit by a thumb twiddle.

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