What's Old Is New Again

Ending one of the longest-running parlor games in the technology industry, former Real Media, former Tacoda and former AOL executive Dave Morgan this week returned from his Mexican hideout and announced that he would start a community newspaper.

The stunned silence across Silicon Alley was deafening.

"There I was sitting on the beach, a Corona in one hand and a Partagas in the other and I had this creepy feeling--you know the kind you get when you think someone is following you--or you get a letter from the IRS? I thought maybe I was having a panic attack, when all of a sudden this Yucca schidigera about 10 feet away burst into flame. I was blinded by the light and had to turn away," Morgan told a crowded but well-behaved press conference at Pershing Square. "Then a voice comes out of the burning Yucca and says: 'The Internet... it's all over. Go back to your roots.'"

Morgan said he sat for three days and nights mulling over what the palm-like plant had told him and decided that since Yucca schidigera is found mainly in valleys with deep and sandy soil, gentle sloped hills and rocky canyons--and that THIS one appeared on the beach and had talked to him in English (with a very slight Chilango accent), that the plant was at least as smart as Henry Blodget or Fred Wilson and he should listen to it.

"The more I thought about it, the more I knew the Yucca was right-- the Internet has indeed been but a passing fad, and pretty soon PCs will become just another expensive clock in the living room, like my eight-track, my VCR and my clap-on, clap-off," Morgan said. "All that stuff about traction, sustainability, unlocking value, organic growth, convergence and blogosphere was just meaningless blather. To think I spent a quarter of my life trying to serve the right ad to the right person at the right time," he added. "Not to mention having to be nice to Jason Calacanis and Tobi Elkin!"

Morgan, who started his career in the newspaper business, noted that he is looking at any number of acquisitions. "Given the current economic climate, I should be able to pick up a major market daily for about 15 or 20 grand," he said. "There is just something about having to wash my hands after reading the news that gratifies at a very core level."

Morgan told the pancake eaters at Pershing Square that it mattered not to him that newspaper circulation is falling; newsprint costs are rising; retail, auto and movie advertising is slumping; classified advertising is available free on craigslist and Wall Street has dumped on deadtree media stocks. Further, he vowed that with any newspaper he buys he won't be doing whatever he can to make the online version of the site increasingly compelling; nor investigating delivery of news to mobile devices, particularly cell phones, and paying a lot of attention to electronic ink technologies, including the scrollable displays from companies like Philips and HP. "I won't turn print journalists into spinning tops, whirling from podcasts to vodcasts to radio appearances to online chats to blogging, then clutching their video cameras as they rush to an assignment and, if they get a free second, trying to squeeze in a little reporting," said Morgan.

"Nah, to hell with all that cyber-age crap. I'm talking about a kid who rides his bike down your street to toss your paper on your front porch, then comes by twice a month to collect from his smiling neighbors. I want to see Dad back in HIS chair reading the sports page while the kids fight over who gets to read the comics page first. I want to see Mom searching for coupons and making a shopping list from the weekly recipe exchange. I want to see real envelopes stuffed with real clippings sent from one family across this great land to another, with a note scribbled across the top, 'I thought you might like to see this.' And with a paperclip holding the lead and the jump together.

"What," Morgan asked the media, "could be more rewarding than seeing which of our neighbors got nabbed for DUI or trying to decipher who the paper is talking about in that 'domestic dispute' item? Where else am I going to see photos of the smiling Welcome Wagon volunteers, or the teens that spent a Saturday picking up litter out by the old folks home? And who else will run those letters from old Mr. Bailey, who seems to have a strong opinion about everything from the chains pushing out the mom & pop shops to the new leash law?"

By the time the press conference ended, Morgan had received funding from Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Shasta Ventures, Union Square Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Sequoia Capital and Sevin Rosen Funds.

The story you have just read is an attempt to blend fact and fiction in a manner that provokes thought, and on a good day, merriment. It would be ill-advised to take any of it literally. Take it, rather, with the same humor with which it is intended. Cut and paste or link to it at your own peril.

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