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The GoPowercat Monopoly?

Coming as it did around the beginning of fall camp and media day, I'm sure many K-State fans who are not subscribers to or regular visitors of the site in question missed this little announcement.

I've found in my study of history and other sundry matters that revolutionary technological change (and the resultant societal changes that flow therefrom) rarely arrives with a loud roar; indeed, it often sneaks in with a whimper. But it is no less significant despite its mode of arrival.

So it is with Tim Fitzgerald's foray into the world of television (and I'm not just talking about regular appearances on The Drive, either).

I should probably state up front that I am a GoPowercat subscriber, and a fairly long-time and loyal one at that. By no means do I disapprove of this move, and as someone who enjoys Deep Purple, I heartily embrace it.

But the journalist in me can't let this one go without comment. Frankly, I believe this deal heralds the shifting into a higher gear of a process that began when Powercat Illustrated ceased to be a magazine with a Web site and became, a Web site with a magazine.

What is that process? Quite simply, Spirit Street Publishing is driving a stake into the heart of The Manhattan Mercury, and perhaps the other major newspapers in the state, too.

Think about it. Who really checks the Mercury for K-State news? I don't know about you, but I rarely read anything there I haven't first seen on GPC or in The Topeka Capital-Journal.

I would have added The Kansas City Star and The Wichita Eagle to that list, but they're sort of part of the problem. Jeffrey Martin's K-Stated blog was one of the few places on these here Interwebs where you could go to regularly get the inside scoop, other than GPC.

Now that he's gone, newspaper coverage of the Cats will be even worse. Martin was fair, even-handed, insightful, humorous and, above all, ethical. The same cannot necessarily be said for other journalistic entities in the area.

The net result will be even more readers at Wabash Station. FItzgerald understands that Cat fans want their stories served with a dash of purple pride, not the cold, generic, "unbiased" fare served by the state's conventional press.

In some ways, that makes the newspapers' jobs easier. They can keep dialing back on coverage, since they're probably never going to win back all the fans that have since migrated to Rivals - especially the contingent that believes wholeheartedly in the "KU bias." (Not saying I do or I don't, because there's evidence both ways, but there's definitely a conspiratorial element of our fan base that is convinced newspaper editors in this state worship all things Jayhawk.)

It's a symptom of a larger problem, really. Newspapers failed for the longest time to embrace and understand the Internet, and then when they finally did, they gave everything away for free. Now their bottom line is falling like a rock as advertisers hit tough times and subscribers slowly dwindle.

I manage a Web site for a small, local, daily newspaper, so I see all sides of this. And my gut is telling me that despite dailies' best efforts to stem the technological flow that threatens to overtake them, they're probably going to fail.

Newspapers can never give the in-depth coverage GPC can, because they cover too many beats. And they can never fill a glass of purple Kool-Aid for a fan, because that would be crossing a journalistic line (even if it is one that is arguably out-of-date).

You can already see it starting. For instance:

In addition, GoPowercat will report on K-State sports throughout the year for KTKA-49.

Seriously, did anyone catch that in the initial press release when it first came out? It's monumental. How long before Channel 49 finally decides it's more cost-effective not to send reporters to Manhattan, and just buys the coverage from GPC wholesale? After all, it's what the fans want, right? Reporting slightly biased in their favor?

Then what? The major newspapers let their beat writers go and start reprinting D. Scott Fritchen pieces instead?

The die-hard K-State fan in me loves that GPC is doing financially well and expanding into new media (don't forget, Fitz also appears on several radio shows, meaning his media empire spans at least four technologies now). The free-market capitalist in me has nothing but admiration for the effectiveness of the man's business model - he understood the power of the World Wide Web long before news editors in this region did.

But the A.Q. Miller alumnus in me wonders if this will be healthy in the long run. It's always good to have multiple viewpoints on something, but dissonant views may soon wither away in the face of financial uncertainty. And a little office on Moro will benefit more from their disappearance than anyone else.