The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Jay H § Matching cuts / 2014-10-02 02:41:13

Now Let's Turn to Someone Much Younger

Steve Outing asked me about the future of news for a column in Editor and Publisher. Here’s what I said:

“I think ‘news’ just becomes a less distinct category. You don’t sit down with a newspaper, or even a news website, or even a super wireless e-paper device, for 10 minutes in the morning to very formally ‘get your news.’ Rather, you get all sorts of news and information — from the personal to the professional to the political — throughout the day, in little bits and bursts, via many different media. With any luck, in 5-10 years the word ‘news’ will be sort of confusing: Don’t you just mean ‘life’?”

Honestly though, the idea that I’m most excited about…

Sloan elaborates: “A key point is that news will continue to be delivered on many media — websites, blogs, TV, phones, pamphlet-y things, those little java jackets they have at coffee shops, whatever. It’s not about everything going digital and never seeing a molecule of real matter again. But it IS about the death of the monolithic news experience.”

…is the Starbucks News Service!

You think I’m kidding, but I’m not!


I will cry many tears if the New York Times ever goes away.

It won’t — it will just be printed on e-paper and on your coffee cup!

Why doesn’t the New York Times have its own television news channel?

Or — its own hour-long TV news program on a network (or cable) channel?

The NYT is really the only thing we have that’s close to a monolithic news experience left. And its columnists and reporters are on other people’s TV channels all the time. It would be like watching the BBC world news. But so much better.

Why put news there when you could put an ad there? The news exists, economically, as bait, but in the case of coffee cups, the coffee is already the bait. Do you think the news can bait people into drinking more coffee? In that case, I think you’ll want a news source with revolutionary undertones but a healthy side of consumerism. Or whenever O’Reilly finally opens a wire service.

Hmm. Good point about the coffee cups. I think you could defend the news as a branding measure, though… if you wanted your coffee brand to be all about being cosmopolitan and smart. But yeah, probably heavy on the ‘news of the weird,’ light on Iraq. Rats, I was totally sure that was going to be my million-dollar idea, too.

I was totally sure that was going to be my million-dollar idea, too.

Oh, well, if million dollars is what you’re going for, it’s probably a bang up idea–who ever made a fortune on Iraq news? Seriously–this morning’s best blog quotes from the O’Reilly network, printed on demand? I think there’s a business plan in their somewhere.

Given sufficient time, I’m sure we’ll be able to use wi-fi to RSS our coffee jackets to whatever news service we prefer.

I think the bigger point is that news itself isn’t going anywhere. There’s an article in the LA Times about the demise of the independent bookstore that makes the following by-now observation:

Even in an entertainment-saturated age, people still buy books. But the casual reader has many other places to get bestsellers and topical books, from warehouse stores to the mall. Meanwhile, book nuts

Tim, I don’t think we can ignore the effect the changing shape of social form has on the content. People still buy books, but plenty of authors and publishers feel that the kind of books they buy–and therefore the kind of books that are published–is greatly shaped by this shift away from independent book stores. People may end up consuming as much news per capita from RoSloNewSleeves(TM), and the resulting news industry might end up supporting just as many JavaJacket journalists (and one excellent blog)–but the new form of the exchange will greatly shift the nature of the content. Bite size morning-appropriate pieces, with style points for sentences that wrap around nicely. (Toroidal Headlines for the Ambitious Copy Editor.)

The monolithic news experience is dying, and RoSlo has come to bury it, not praise it. But if there’s a way to save its assets and push for new news containers that promote those assets, that would be good.

Toroidal Headlines! YES!

I agree with Saheli. The physical form of the book influenced the content form of the novel — which of course re-influenced the physical form of the book, and so on, and so on. The point is, they’re intimately connected.

“News itself isn’t going anywhere” is true but only if you define “news” so broadly as to be almost without meaning. I think news as we know it IS in fact going away. But I, for one, am not particularly sad about it, because although we’re in a rough patch right now, I think something really awesome lies ahead.

Just to be clear, you guys are preaching to the choir — I’m just trying to push the debate along. I definitely agree that changes in media and changes in content are all important and all connected. I just think that the social transformations that react to/actively drive these other transformations are perhaps more important and definitely less well-covered/understood. It’s not just that we consume media in a different medium, or that this medium promotes different kinds of content — it’s that these changes are accompanied by deeper transformations in the way we consume media and in how we relate to one another.

In literary studies, the author who has been most instrumental in uncovering the relationship between all three (media, content, social form), following Walter Benjamin and Marshall McLuhan, is the German scholar Friedrich Kittler. His books Discourse Networks: 1800/1900 and Gramophone, Film, Typewriter are both excellent attempts to map these connections.

And Re: Robin’s argument that “News itself isn’t going anywhere” is true but only if you define “news” so broadly as to be almost without meaning.

I can only say I was trying to respond to exhibit A:

Rather, you get all sorts of news and information

Ah hahahahahahaha. Yes, upon reflection I realize our agreement is so complete that it is like a super-saturated solution of correctness, prevented from settling into a crystal of rightness by its strange properties. 🙂

I concur, verily, we have agreed!

At the risk of disturbing the mother liquor, however, I still want to elucidate the useful qualities of monolithic news that Robin so breezily dispatches, and note that some of them are assuredly not going to survive the transition to text messages and java jackets without deliberate help. Without understanding the deeper changes in our sociology–the rhythms of our days and years, where and how we consume information, with whom we consume it, to what purpose–I cannot be assured that our diet won’t slowly lurch into an epidemic of mental diabetes.

I invoke Pollan on purpose. We *love* that kind of journalism—the reporting, the marinating, the crafting, the length, the bite, the national context. Who is going to be Pollan in 20 or 30 years? Are they going to learn their craft on SMS notes? Will their readers have a taste for so much fiber?

I repeat — why doesn’t the New York Times start its own 24-hour cable channel?

The New York Post has its own cable channel — Fox News — why not the Times?

(Shit — Microsoft has its own cable channel, or half of one.)

They are the dominant source of news in both print and on the web — why not television?

Sulzberger’s been buying up internet sinkholes and fading newspapers — why not jump into the 20th-century’s media revolution, rather than trying to cling to the 19th while sticking your toe out into the 21st?

Everyone in television is dying to appeal to the demographic the New York Times serves — no offense, but nobody else has a lockdown on wealthy tastemakers — so why couldn’t a television version of it be sold, with the express refusal to water it down?

They’re already producing those web videos — so why not hire somebody with the media and technological skills to turn those into network/PBS-quality broadcast pieces?

Despite a proliferation of cable news channels, nobody on television is doing what the New York Times does.

And get this — The New York Times may be the only entity in the universe that generates enough original content and coverage to fit into 24 hours of television.

If I were doing it, I would shy away from just covering political and breaking news, and instead split the 24 hours into programs that cover everything the Times does — politics, the world, art, food, movies, business, travel — with the obvious breaks for breaking news, special events, and recaps every five-six hours — like a real network. There would be an obvious place for real newsmagazines with long-form reporting that would put what the networks call newsmagazines to shame. And on Sunday? Just run everything from the New York Times magazine between 8 and 12, and again between 7 and 11 at night.

They could easily sell the rights internationally, to Europe, China, India, Latin America.

And all they really need is a setup like PBS, the BBC, or vintage-era CNN — a newsroom, smart reporters and news readers, and people who can effectively introduce their (mostly) already media-savvy columnists and reporters.

They also have — get this — a great web site and what I hear is an excellent print product, all of which could promote each other and the television channel. (If Oprah’s fans watch her show AND read her magazine, I see no reason why a TV New York Times

Maybe television would be The New York Times’s Helen of Troy. But if there is going to be anything like the good qualities of the monolithic news experience in the future, I think something like TimesTV would stand the best chance.

The snarkmatrix awaits you

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