It’s endlessly engrossing to me as an editor/writer/manager of the web to read contrary sides of the debate on newspapers’ growth or death because of the Web.

I don’t have a perfect understanding of the practical applications of technology, nor the perfect execution of that technology. Writers write (or content producers produce) stories about communities; ad reps sell community reach facilitation to businesses; and, news companies publish the combinations of those two across various media.

If only it was all that simple. I dislike the notion I’d be adding to the confusion of it all by writing about it, but the industry’s innards have been laid bare for the world. We’re a little fascinated with ourselves, and there are great resources out there for understanding the media.

Read Jeff Jarvis, Howard Owens, Steve Buttry and the Journal Register Company’s Ben Franklin Project, just to name a few.

Each one (and many others) is worth reading in his, or its, own right – even this article by Paul Carr about a new editorial plan Forbes.com. But it’s this one that sets me off and makes me want to point out, again, the differences in businesses sizes we’re talking about when we say the words, “news web site.”

Carr writes:

Yesterday, I wrote a column contrasting the attitude towards ‘content’ displayed by old and new media. My conclusion was that, in the Internet world, quality, originality and exclusivity are fast becoming irrelevant. Instead, online publications increasingly treat content as low-paid, illiterate swill, commissioned by the ton to provide SEO ad inventory.

I take mild offense to this, as I suspect some with the Journal Register Company might with their Ben Franklin Project. On the editorial side of things, there has been some presumption that the broad business loss in the model of selling ads in exclusive space (print) could be made new – and online – by finding the wandering readership in its various grassy fields of play and re-identifying with them. That works out as a good thing when you think in terms of creating or culling a sense of community.

It just sounds cynical with Carr’s spin on things.

Not only will this new breed of hacks add thousands of pages of self-promotional, unedited (Forbes simply doesn’t have the resources to monitor thousands of contributors) drivel to Forbes.com but, by lowering the barrier to entry to anyone with a keyboard, the publication will also scare away those top tier contributors – captains of industry, statesmen and the like – who are prepared to pen a free article for Forbes just for the kudos that comes from being asked.

I guess I just don’t know any better than to think I wouldn’t think this way. Of course, Forbes doesn’t.

But here’s where understanding audiences comes into play. We, The Press and North Ridgeville Press, are where you are. Our topical writing is based on our shared daily interactions. So, when I ask Brookside’s Chelsea Schmitz or Avon Lake graduate Kevin Liszka to write for us – online – it’s about the fact they come from our communities. Coincidentally, the prevailing business model bears out that interested readers will visit more often to see those posts and others on our site.

I’m grateful that what I believe the difference to be between The Press papers and Forbes is that we are grassroots. To take Carr’s language, we may be going out to find people with keyboards, but they are already using those keyboards to share information. It’s just nice they would think enough of us to join.

Oh, and one more thing. As the headline implies, what I really take away is that it is easy to get caught up in the excitement/anxiety of all the change. It’s more interesting and fun to get caught up in the doing.

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