With nostalgia and some sadness, my family today announced that after 140 years, it’s leaving the newspaper business on May 1st. The daily Chronicle of Willimantic, Connecticut, founded by my step-great-great-grandfather John A. MacDonald in 1877, will be sold at the end of next month to Central Connecticut Communications, the owners of the New Britain Herald and the Bristol Press, two other Connecticut dailies. Following John MacDonald, my great-grandfather George Augustus Bartlett, grandfather G. Donald Bartlett, mother Lucy Bartlett Crosbie, brother Kevin Bartlett Crosbie, and my sister-in-law Patrice Pernaselli Crosbie have in turn, generally after the death of their predecessor, published the paper every day since that week when John founded it — during which Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India, Chief Crazy Horse was fighting the U.S. cavalry, and President Ulysses Grant was ordering home the last federal troops occupying the former Confederate states. We have been the oldest newspaper family in New England. My father Arthur W. Crosbie was the newspaper’s general manager during the middle of the 20th Century. I worked there during the 1970’s, and had grown up in a multi-generational household where the news business and substance of newspaper editorials were dinner table conversation. When I started in the business, we still melted lead to make that day’s printing type (a slug of which, pictured above, I’ve kept from those days) and the newspaper received international and national news via rolls of one-inch (2.5 cm) wide paper tape punched in teletype code. Fire and police radio monitors sat besides our TV. The daily deadlines made it both a satisfying and frustrating occupation. One hard to let go. Yet Facebook friends who have known me as a news industry futurists/consultant from 1996 onward (and as well since 2008 as Syracuse University’s postgraduate instructor in the New Media Business) will know from my professional and trade journal writings and speeches during the past 15 years that newspaper publishing, with quite rare exceptions, is now an unsustainable business due to epochal changes in how and why people consume news, entertainment, and other information. Times change. Business life cycles end. And we’re closing our 140-year story. #
At 3:59 p.m. on a former farm 20 miles (32 km) into the woods of rural Massachusetts, 150 people, most between the ages of 21 and 40, and from at least a half dozen U.S. states, queue in the dirt swept by winter winds behind a large, green aluminium shed no more than a decade old. Its door opens for the day at 4 p.m., but only for four hours. By 5 p.m., the queue outside the opened door will be 350-people long. This is the Tree House Brewing Company of Monson, Massachusetts. Hundreds have traveled to this unlikely location because Tree House is arguably the best artisinal brewer in the United States. In BeerAdvocatecom‘s ranking by thousands of people of the top 250 beers brewed in the U.S., three of the top five ( indeed, seven of the top U.S. 20) are from this shed, including the top beer. Tree House doesn’t distribute its products to pubs, restaurants, or stores. Its beer can only be gotten here. Yet none of its beer can be drunk here because the brewery doesn’t have a pub license. The first few hundred people waiting in queue will be allowed to buy a limited number of cans of beers (I bought two six-packs for $43), although those towards the back of the queue might be too late. An hour after the door opens, one of three of that day’s fresh-brewed varieties has sold out. By 6 p.m., a second is out. And by 8 p.m., no matter what, the door closes for another day.
The rise of ‘right-wing’ politicians in post-industrial countries — politicians such as Donald Trump of the United States of America, Marie Le Pen of France, the late Jörg Haider and his successors in Austria, and others, and similar movements, such as the Tea Party movement in the U.S. — are only the beginning of what will probably be a 20 to 50 years of reactionary protests as major countries (indeed, all countries eventually) now transition from the Industrial Era into the Informational Era. The 2020’s will likely be a particularly tumultuous decade. The Informational Era denotes a period in human history when most economies are based upon performing services rather than manufacturing products. The U.S. have now entered that period and become ‘post-industrial’. Part of that transition has involved low-skilled manufacturing and industrial jobs (such as manufacturing thread or clothing, electronic devices, or simple furnitures and supplies) migrating to other countries where lower wages are paid. That part of the transition has been occuring during the past 40 to 50 years. However, another major and often overlooked part of this transition from Industrial to Informational involves robotics. For examples, very many manufacturing jobs in the U.S. have been replaced by robotics. An industrial robot controlled by someone who has a master’s degree in engineering can replace anywhere from several to a dozen or more manual laborers. These machines pay for themselves in only a few years. This revolution in robotic has transformed manufacturing in many countries. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps more than a million, industrial jobs in the U.S. have been lost due to robotics replacing workers, yet industrial manufacturing output in the U.S. has risen to record levels, exceeding output during the Industrial Era. Another reason why this new era is being called Informational is that technology has developed machines that can now use information (i.e, their programming) to create actual products in ways light years beyond what the simple Industrial Era mechanical loom could do. Moreover, that robotics revolution has begun to invade those countries were industrial jobs have migrated due to low wages. Earlier this year, the South China Morning Post of Hong Kong reported that one factory in China’s Jiangsu province used robots to replace 60,000 workers, and that 600 other companies in that province were drafting similar restructuring plans. In Taiwan, Foxconn, which manufacturers computer products for Apple, has spent a total of $500 million on robotics, […]