Bleak Future

“We are going to lose a horrifying amount of experience, judgment, talent and the culture of journalism which has, for the most part, made it a very ethical enterprise. Not only are we losing the accumulated judgment, wisdom, experience, knowledge of tens of thousands of journalists, we are losing their sense of how to stay relatively pure.” Bob Garfield on Future of Journalism | Future of Journalism

Hear, hear.

Where do we go from here, in our unstoppable march toward new journalism and communications 3.0? Become a “tradigital journalist.” Combine the traditional with the digital but apply the same ethical and professional standards. My two cents.

The iPad, A Media Savior?

The iPad has finally arrived! This sleek device with a bright, colorful and vivid display (but an unfortunate name that reminds me of adult diapers), has Apple enthusiasts saluting yet another shiny gadget and the blogosphere and social media buzzing with excitement.

Judging by the reactions of the media, the iPad will save the newspaper and magazine industries from sure demise with one stylish swoop, and with it book publishing and e-book distribution (Hachette, Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan already made deals with Apple.)

The British blog FirstPost nicely sums up this mood and warns: “No one is more excited about [the iPad] than publishing and print media companies. To them, the tablet represents a vision of the future that does not involve their extinction. […] The Devil’s bargain is that you have let Steve Jobs be the gatekeeper to your customer and price-fixer of your product.”

Oops.

Newser reports that “unlike Google, Steve Jobs [who, according to the Wall Street Journal, envisions “new money in old media“] sees his mission as helping content providers repackage and sell their wares, rather than giving it away for free.”

Indeed, according to a post on Reflections of a Newsosaur, the new tablets (which the blog refers to as the “Swiss Army knife of media platforms”) have definitely “raised the bar for interactive content delivery. Unfortunately, most media companies already are late in developing editorial and advertising strategies to meet this new challenge.”

The new challenge is to entice users to actually pay for the content they consume. Yet a commenter to Newsosaur’s blog post dismisses this notion and surely represents a majority of readers: “A new uberhyperbolitron [sic] like the iPad won’t make one whit difference for old media. Embedding visual aids with text isn’t going to get somebody to pay for an online ‘newspaper’ when there’s a blogger who’ll gladly do the honor of analyzing news content.” For free, may I add.

That, precisely, is the point. Unless tablets provide a platform to charge consumers for all content, no shiny new device will make old/new media profitable. At least, until readers, who eagerly dished out good money for their gadgets, consider rewarding those who produce the content they so eagerly click through (or copy/paste into their own blogs).

Joshua Benton, writing for NiemanJournalismLab, shares this skepticism. “The iPad, as we know it today, doesn’t change any of the fundamental economics of news commerce. I didn’t see anything today that made me change my opinion that device-based dreams of a news deus ex machina are wishful thinking, and that the difficult revenue decisions will have to be made pan-platform.”

Nevertheless, at least three magazine publishers, Hearst, Conde Nast and Time, have already created mock ups of their magazines for the Apple tablet. The New York Times Company is working on a tablet version of its newspaper; others will follow.

But old media turned new via tablets still play an important function: helping consumers wade through, organize and prioritize the vast amount of information available online. We need to come up with a formula that addresses media-flow overload and information fatigue, caused by relentless, feverish “multitasking,” like reading a magazine on the iPad, writing a blog entry or comment on an iMac, texting or watching a YouTube video on the iPhone and listening to iTunes downloads on an iPod. (By the way, “multitasking” in my view is not reading and listening to music simultaneously, but reading and playing an instrument. But that is a separate post.)

Yes, tablets are the future of interactive media consumption. I want one, too. But I hope that the iPad will eventually do for written content what iTunes did for music: ensure that writers and editors will be rewarded for their work. Without us — the “content providers and developers” — even the nicest tablet will one day go dark.

This post also appeared in Aloud, a blog for New York Women in Communications.


“Cacophony of Today’s Media”

“…the cacophony of today’s media — in which rumor and invective often outpace truth-testing, in which shouting heads drown out sober reflection, in which it is possible for people to feel fully informed without ever encountering an opinion that contradicts their prejudices — plays some role in the polarizing of our politics…” (Bill Keller, New York Times.)

Do you agree?

How We Read Online

An article from Slate (old but, oh, so true!) “Lazy Eyes — How We Read Online“. Quote: “We’ll do more and more reading on screens, but they won’t replace paper—never mind what your friend with a Kindle tells you. Rather, paper seems to be the new Prozac. A balm… for the distracted mind. It’s contained, offline, tactile.” So true.

How the Web Has Changed Our Culture

Must read: How the web has changed our culture: a NYTimes article titled “Reading on the Web: Text Without Context” on how digital media are reshaping our political and social landscape, molding art and entertainment, even affecting the methodology of  scholarship and research.

This great analysis examines “the consequences of the fragmentation of data that the Web produces, as news articles, novels and record albums are broken down into bits and bytes; the growing emphasis on immediacy and real-time responses; the rising tide of data and information that permeates our lives; and the emphasis that blogging and partisan political Web sites place on subjectivity.”

Global Journalists On Journalism

World Press Review’s website [my former employer, when it still published a print edition] has a compelling special report on global journalists musing about journalism in their countries. “In countries around the world, independent journalists risk jail, injury, and death to get the story out.” Must read.

A Worldpress.org Special Report – Journalists on Journalism – Worldpress.org