With the imminent shift by David Pogue (The New York Times), Walt Mossberg (Wall St. Journal/AllThingsD) and Kara Swisher (AllThingsD) to new ventures, I had some additional thoughts about the significance of those moves.
Mike Maney, who tweets at the_spinmd, responded to my first blog post on the topic, saying, "Not sure I'd say lots of people still open their paper to read. Which is the core of the 'why' IMO" that Pogue, Mossberg and Swisher are leaving.
I agree but I think people do check out the Times and the Journal on their apps and from those papers' websites. Soon, after checking the headlines on nytimes.com and wsj.com, people are going to have to remember to click to the other URLs to find out what Pogue and Mossberg think about the latest cosnumerish technology.
Of course a click or two, especially if bookmarked, is not an arduous, time-consumer process (not like it was with dial-up service -- for those old enough to remember dial-up). But we leave in a one-click world where requiring a couple of clicks to purchase an item may cause people to give up. (I can't imagine what my grandmother would react if she she had learned that a couple of clicks represent too much of an obstacle to purchase, considering she had to take buses to get to the store to buy something only after trying it on, and then travel back again when she returned the item.)
I do think Pogue, Mossberg and Swisher are replaceable in a way -- I mean, we all are, after all. But I do think it will be more difficult for their replacements to establish themselves just as it will take a while for Pogue, Mossberg and Swisher (I'm not going to refer to them by an acronym).
As it is, one can make a case that the tech reporters getting a lot of attention these days are not the tech reviewers but those who cover startups. That said, consumer tech reviewers will always be important because we need someone to tell us which device is better -- the iPhone or the Galaxy.
No matter what, I think the continuing fragmentation of the media is a lose-lose proposition for reporters, these publications and the readers.
This fragmentation makes it more challenging to reach a mass audience. It takes more effort to reach more reporters, who themselves reach smaller audiences. (These audiences may be more engaged than traditional print newspaper readers, but they're still harder to reach.) It takes more time to research and contact reporters...which means we need to spend more time overall to reach fewer people at a time. It's pretty much a similar story with social media, too. Don't get me wrong, you've got to reach people on different platforms -- Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, blogs, and forums, etc. -- but it can take more time to reach increasingly niche audiences.
That, I believe, is the point to keep in mind in terms of the implications for Pogue, Mossberg, Swisher and the rest of us.