Wednesday, 25 February 2009

The future of newspapers or we are all pushing pixels now

I said in a previous post that I was witnessing a personal shift in reading habits away from print. But my love of books and newsprint is going to be difficult to shake. A morning read on the tube (with a seat to boot) can induce private moments of pure insight and offer up flights of fancy before the working day begins proper. These simple reading experiences seem locked into our love of paper-based information. But the very fact that I am thumbing out this thought on my BP (BlackBerry Pearl) with its fudged QWERTY keyboard layout (two letters per key) probably betrays a greater sea-change in my literary habits; I'm just writing more. I'm texting, blogging and even occasionally 'google chatting' and all the rest, and all this has a repeat effect on my reading - I'm even more hungry for ideas in the written down form than I have been in my life time. It's probably my age combined with the easy accessibility of cheap technology for sharing thoughts (eg blogging on the web) plus the impact of the recession (shall we ditch 'credit crunch' altogether now?) all mixed up to make one big stew of curiosity.

A blogger I enjoy reading, and was introduced to through his weekly column in Monday's Media Guardian section (the print version as it happens), is Jeff Jarvis and his Buzz Machine. His recent blog on the decline of The San Francisco Chronicle is a fascinating take on a newspaper in trouble situated in the wider context of a generalised decline in the business of making and selling printed newspapers. Jarvis has one clear message for papers like the Chronicle: reinvent yourselves and engage with the new technology of news distribution (the web) or die. As a former newspaper man himself this a tough message from someone who has made berating the world of print journalism a cause célèbre. Jarvis's blog offers up an angle on the technology and humanity of communication that is a joy to read even on my little BlackBerry Pearl screen on a cold and dank February morning.
Also read Goodbye to all this? about the future of subeditors. (Interesting that The Grandad choses to write 'subeditor' as one word when the rest of the world is quite happy with 'sub-editor'. Ahhh the power of house style over common sense and popular usage. There will be a reason for sure).

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