What's really killing newspapers: They're no longer the best providers of social currency.

Media criticism.
Aug. 1 2008 6:34 PM

What's Really Killing Newspapers

They're no longer the best providers of social currency.

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The social networking that takes place via instant messaging, microblogging, or e-mail further steals from newspapers the mindshare they once owned. You no longer need to rely on a paper for the social currency that a weather report, movie listings, classified ads, shopping bargains, sports info, stock listings, television listings, gossip, or entertainment news provide. As falling circulation indicates, fewer do. And the newspaper isn't the only media hub suffering in the new era. Radio, which once served a similar social role with its menu of music, news, and talk, is plummeting.

What's the cure for the newspaper's malady? As if I knew! Just count this as my small contribution to Adrian Monck's finding that the decline of newspapers has nothing to do with journalism and everything to do with the changing world.

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Maybe I could be the Jonas Salk of newspapers! I'll think about curing the industry over my vacation this week and report back if I think of anything clever. Or, show me how 21st century you are by smearing something on the Slate Facebook group wall. Send your ideas to slate.pressbox@gmail.com. (E-mail may be quoted by name in "The Fray," Slate's readers' forum, in a future article, or elsewhere unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)

Track my errors: This hand-built RSS feed will ring every time Slate runs a "Press Box" correction. For e-mail notification of errors in this specific column, type the words social currency in the subject head of an e-mail message and send it to slate.pressbox@gmail.com.

Jack Shafer was Slate's editor at large. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at Shafer.Reuters@gmail.com.