the faulty model of newsprint media

At the end of last week, the New York Times Company threatened to close down the Boston Globe unless the employee unions agreed to $20 million in cuts. This comes on the heels of comments by NYT executive editor Bill Keller speaking to an audience at Stanford in which he stated “saving the New York Times now ranks with saving Darfur as a high-minded cause.” (He clarifies his statement to relate it to the relative level of interest in the survival of the Times, not as a human rights intervention. This doesn’t change the extraordinarily poor choice of comparative terms.) It’s not the only newspaper in trouble within recent memory. The Tribune Company (owner of the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times) filed for bankruptcy at the end of 2008. The Philadelphia Inquirer filed in late February and the Rocky Mountain News (Denver) closed its doors just shy of 150 years of printing. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer dropped the print edition in favor of a web only edition.

While this traditional type of media is reeling financially, I think that newsprint media and technology have reached a crossroads of opportunity. The best example of this opportunity resides in the newspaper subscription service for the Kindle. The device is capable of downloading and updating content (such as newspaper subscriptions) automatically through available technological networks. This means you can wake up in the morning, roll over, hit your alarm, pick up your reader off the nightstand, and have the paper (so to speak) in your hands. In addition, it satisfies a push for greener technologies that will reduce a carbon footprint such as materials (paper and ink) and fuel. This is the sort of technology that the newspapers should be pushing the market to develop: a cheaper media reader (much cheaper than the Kindle’s $360 price tag) that can allow people to subscribe to their web content.

While there are arguments that print media is a victim of the economy or the public’s reading habits, I personally don’t find them compelling enough. The lack of movement towards digital content represents a lack of innovation on the part of the newspaper companies. And it’s not like they didn’t see it coming with the rise of Mobipocket Reader or the Kindle. We are becoming a “fingertip society”, for we expect information to be found at our fingertips when desired. While I cannot deny the pleasurable sensory experience in the feel of newspaper, the smell of the ink, or the crinkles of the sheets when turned, it is the content that is the selling point. A searchable digital format is what people have come to expect in their information experience. While there is much lost from the lack of serendipity browsing in these formats, there are greater gains to be made here in preserving these journalist institutions.

This reasoning also covers readering habits as it relates to how people are perceiving the information around them. Awhile ago (and I can’t remember or find the source now), I remember a  study that indicated that leisure reading is down across all age groups. However, this is an incomplete analysis for it fails to mention that the number of information mediums has gone up. Whether it is the web, text, video, or peer to peer referral, the increase in the types of media and means for people to get information has pushed newsprint media from being one of a few to one of many choices. In part with the aforementioned instant access that society has come to expect, this makes the current newspaper format a dinosaur of the information age. It does make me sad to say that I believe newsprint is on its way out; I have tons of memories of reading the comics with my father or the things I’ve discovered by thumbing through a section. But I cannot deny the financial situation nor the information trends which are moving away from it.

They are late off the starting block, but traditional news media can catch up. The technology is here or a few innovation generations away from where it needs to be for newspapers to fully take advantage of it. I will hope that there is some companies left to take advantage of it.

(Posted at LISNews)

pitchfork futures are up. way up.

A friend of mine put this article from Rolling Stone up in his blog about the bailout and AIG. While I had read various blogs, heard the talking heads on television, and other print media articles, this put it all in perspective. If anything, it quite possibly made me a tad more religious for I don’t think some of these people will see justice in this life. I have never wanted to own a pitchfork more than any other time in my life, even if I wasn’t using it for its originally created purpose.

The article also served to reverse my position on the bailouts and the incredible amounts of money involved here. Not simply because it is against the very nature of free market capitalism, but that these people deserve to undergo either financial reorganization or bankruptcy. (As my father put it last night, “They should get the haircut they deserve, not the bolstering.”) This would allow the companies to come down in size to the more manageable (read: easier to regulate) levels prior to 1999. It would also send a clear signal that such organization behavior will not be tolerated.

I’m not completely unsympathic to the plight of the people who work or worked for the company who are going to lose their jobs from this financial crisis. Having been let go a couple of times in my jog history, I would hope that this would create the change or innovation I underwent in changing fields. The march of industry will go on, just to a different beat.

pretty soon, nothing happened

After being issued the challenge to put forth a budget, the Republicans answered… with a 19 page document that contained no actual numbers. (You can see it for yourself here.) Glenn Thrush from Politico reports that even the release was subject to some bickering as the party members split between actually creating a budget with numbers versus putting *something* out there to win the news cycle. Sadly, a budget is longer than a news cycle. This budget is something we have to live with long after the cameras turn off.

Now, I will admit that, at the Center for American Progress (a noted progressive site), I scored in the ‘liberal democrat’ range on their Interactive Quiz. (Although, it is hard to take a website quiz where you rate issues 1 through 10 as gospel, but that’s another story.) But I’m not a partisan hack. If there is a house on fire, I’m not going to argue about where the water comes from. I want to see all the solutions brought to the table. And this just disappoints in a way that makes me very, very sad.

I used to think I was a Republican in Exile, someone who was driven away by the social conservatives who hold views that I find disagreeable. (The pro-life, pro-death penalty stance makes my head hurt.) The conservatism of my youth (small government, fiscal responsibility) has been replaced by the pragmatism of the absolute cluster fuck of a mess we are in. And if the Democrats and liberals of this country are offering the better solutions, I’m willing to go along with them. For those who think this is a compromise of my values, it might be. But I live in the real world which demands solutions for the moment. And a 19 page critique of the President’s budget without hard numbers is not a solution as much as it is a partisan talking points memo. Like Cuba Gooding Jr. in Jerry Macquire, show me the money.

Maybe I should feel sorry for them. It’s not easy to be a Republican these days. They really do need some time in the wilderness. Or we need more political parties. Or less yelling at the far right and the far left and people like myself feeling like a kid passing notes between feuding parents.

I need a drink.

And so it begins

I read a lot of blogs. It started as a work assignment at the library. I was collecting political websites to gear up for the presidential election. And, naturally, no actual questions actually materialized. In fact, I don’t think I had any patrons even remotely come close.

In any event, I got to collecting blogs in my Google Reader. These were the best of the bunch, the links that when I clicked on that didn’t make my head explode in one way or the other. I’ve added a few since, taken out a couple, but they have mostly stayed the same.

The political blogs are the widest collection that I read. They run the whole gambit from conservative to liberal to progressive to whatever other political stance buzzword they have out there. I like them all, even when they are posting or saying things that I don’t agree with. In fact, I might like them more in that case since it puts me outside my comfort zone. I get to mull over the points, digest the meaning, and come out with a new or refined belief. I think the questioning is what makes the arguments stronger, what makes it so I can argue both ways, and what makes me really think about what is going on.

Of course, there is an insane amount of “white noise” in political blogs. The petty issues can stymie any sort of actual conversation with the petty bullshit that prevents us from truly moving forward as a people. And while there is some blame to sling around, the real blame falls to everyone: those who partake, those who allow, those who abstain, and all who don’t call shenanigans on it. But sometimes, sometimes, you get lucky and find something that you didn’t know, whether it is about yourself or the world around you.

The second largest contingent of blogs are all library based. Being a librarian (or, the technical term for a male librarian, a “guybrarian”), I like to keep up with the news and trends. A news feed from Google News and LISNews along with some other smaller blogs covers the territory nicely for me.

Beyond that, it’s all the light stuff. Cartoon strips (Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield without Garfield) and World of Warcraft blogs make up the true time wasting end. Well, ok, they aren’t complete time wasters, but fun stuff after all the dreary political crap.

And so, here I am. I started a public blog before and then just let it die. I maintain a LiveJournal because all my friends are there. But with the advent of Facebook and Myspace, there is just too much social networking crap. This is a public journal, a soapbox, a place where I can jam my note into a bottle and toss it out into the sea of the internet. For, in my experience, people just want to be heard by other people. It is less about trying to bring someone over to your side as it is tryng to get your viewpoint out there.

And so it begins.