Friday, February 4, 2011

The New Media

Quick. Where did you first learn about the demonstrations in Egypt? While you ponder that question, let me ask you another: Is there anything particularly significant, or out of the ordinary, occurring in Tibet today?

I’m willing to bet that most people learned about the strife in Egypt because they heard it on the news or read about it in the paper. I’m equally sure that most of you know there is nothing particularly important happening in Tibet today because there isn’t anything in the news about it.

But what a minute. Aren’t we in the brave new world of electronic information distribution? I’ve been reading for several years now how the traditional media – broadcast news and printed newspapers – are relics from the past. People today get all their information from the online social networks.

To test this theory, I just surveyed several of the social media to develop this list of the day’s major events:

  • Hulk Hogan has made a new rap video. 
  • Rosie Huntington ate some falafel. 
  • A whole lot of people have recently checked in at Starbucks. 
  • Overweight cats are still falling from window sills at an alarming rate. 
  • Men are pigs. 
  • It’s a great day for cashmere. 
  • Here in New York, the MTA is intentionally screwing people by making trains late. 
  • Everybody is discussing sexual intercourse with snow. 
As I review this list I can’t escape a vague feeling that I’m still missing some of the more important events of the day. I think I’ll stick with the traditional media a little while longer, gate keeping and all.

In other news, Rupert Murdock has launched a revolutionary new venture. The Daily is the first exclusively electronic newspaper and will be available as an app on the Apple iPad. But, again, wait a minute. Haven’t paper and ink newspapers been searching for a way to go electronic for the past five years? Most of the major papers already have an online edition. Some are free; some require a subscription. So what’s new about Murdock’s edition?

A newspaper on a screen is a website whether you call it a website or you call it an app. As far as I can see, there isn’t anything you can do on an iPad that you can’t do on any website except, by making it an “app”, you can limit it to a small subset of users (small in comparison to the total number of people with access to the internet). So what’s the point?

It isn’t the technology that’s revolutionary here. It’s how the money is collected. None of the major players has yet figured out how to make a dime publishing online news. By loosening it’s prohibition against subscription services in the App Store, Apple gets to grab a whopping thirty percent off the top. Murdock presumably gets to ride the wave of popularity of the iPad and the ignorance of its users. They will think that reading a newspaper on a computer screen was not possible until their magical device hit the stores. But once the novelty wears off, are people any more likely to pay for their news than they have been in the past?

Stay tuned or tweeted, as the case may be.

1 comment:

  1. It's a tough time for the traditional print media... Darwinism will prevail...