Monday, December 15, 2008

The Media Is Dying

It used to be that I subscribed to and (mainly) read about 15 monthly periodicals - mainly business and computer stuff - but some others as well. While I still get some "hard copy" magazines - I find that I get most of my news from online sources.

I won't wax nostalgic about how I love the feel of the magazine rather than a cold screen, or the fact that I like to keep 1,000 old copies of all these magazines in the bathroom, etc.

Both types of media have their benefits. The paper ones are good to take on the road, or curl up with on a rainy day. The digital versions contain more details, are more up-to-date and can contain links to other relevant data.

There are downsides to both types of media as well. On the printed media side: Wastes paper, there are increasingly more ads than editorial pages, it's costiler for the publisher to produce and mail, it's outdated the minute it's printed because of the long lead times required for the production process.

On the digital media side... well, there's not many. Now that I have an iPhone, I can browse almost anything almost anywhere - and a lot of sites now have content that's specifically formatted for mobile devices. The one thing that is really, really, really annoying about these digital versions of the pubs I surf on a regular basis is that they've become nothing more than an advertising delivery vehicle.

Every site from eWEEK to Inc to FastCompany to ComputerWorld to MacWorld... all of 'em are so choked full of ads that it's nearly impossible to read the content. Almost all the sites will take really a really nice piece of editorial and chop it up into 12 bite-sized pieces that force you to click through page after page - for the sole purpose of refreshing the ads on the page in hopes you'll click and they'll get $0.15. Or, if they are getting paid per impressions - they serve up the most ad impressions possible - to the extent that 75% of the entire space is dedicated to flashing, whirrling, popping up ads.

I, for one am just sick to death of it.

But, I have a secret weapon. It's a little, tiny link that's usually tucked away at the bottom of the page - or for braver sites - right under the headline. It's called "Print".

Yep - print. That's my secret weapon.

Now before I get a load of email from the tree-hugging-Prius-driving-Berkenstock-hemp-wearing of you out there - I don't actually print the stuff on paper. You see, when you hit the "print" button - each site will re-format the article you're looking at into a "basic" format that doesn't have 1,000 ads on it. It will usually have one ad at the top - but other than that - the article appears the way it would in a "normal" magazine.

You can then easily read it, see the illustrations, click on links, etc. in a much more readable form.

I get the fact that these "old school" media companies are making money the only way they know how (advertising) - but I wonder if they actually even read their own sites?

First there were news "portal" sites. Yahoo especially comes to mind - where you would go to get an update on what was happening in the world. Then the newspapers and magazines came online - and they also had their own spin on the world and dozens of "new" stories every day.

Next, came the bloggers. The good, bad and just plain bitchy ones. Pretty soon you needed to get an RSS reader just to keep up on all the articles, news items and new blog entries that came out 24/7. As the number of content sites kept increasing - it has come to the place where it's almost too much content.

Now you have the Social Media revolution. In the world of Social Media - people you know (or at least people you follow) alert you in 140-character bytes, write on your "wall" or "poke" you to alert you to what they are reading and finding interesting.

The large-player media companies are starting to get "lost". All their content is also content that is picked up, chewed, further analyzed and regurgitated by bloggers all over the world - sometimes with much better results than some of the clap trap coming from "big media."

Then there's the issue of physical newspapers and magazines shutting down completely. There have been a number just this year. All of those "real" reporters who have years of experience and have established a "name" for themselves - have, for the most part, quit or been fired.

What do you do if you're an out-of-work reporter? Yep - you start a blog - and keep on reporting. That means that now these big media companies are competing with the people that used to work for them. The people that don't have a lot (or any) advertising on their site - and who focus on just one thing: a good, informative, timely story on stuff people want to read.

And that, at the end of the day is all that matters.

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