Print publications — from newspaper articles to marketing brochures — contain linear content that's often consumed in a more relaxed setting and manner than the solution-hunting behavior that characterizes most high-value Web use. In print, you can spice up linear narrative with anecdotes and individual examples that support a storytelling approach to exposition. On the Web, such content often feels like filler; it slows down users and stands in the way of their getting to the point.
Web content must be brief and get to the point quickly, because users are likely to be on a specific mission. In many cases, they've pulled up the page through search. Web users want actionable content; they don't want to fritter away their time on (otherwise enjoyable) stories that are tangential to their current goals.
So I was intrigued by an editorial in my local newspaper earlier this week by a University of Utah communication professor about the future of newspapers. In the op-ed piece Kimberly Mangun spends the first half of the article discussing how groups like Nomad News are revolutionizing the way we gather and disseminate news, and the next part of the article outlining cutbacks in local newspapers. So by the end, I was a little surprised by her enthusiasm for the future of the print newspaper in its current form:
Newspapers, in one format or another, have been published in the United States for more than 300 years. They have weathered censorship, newsprint shortages, union battles, mergers and competition from "new media" - magazines, radio and television. But papers may be facing their biggest challenge yet: a triple whammy of rising newsprint costs, plunging advertising revenue and online journalism.
Her conclusion? "Like the phoenix rising from the ashes, newspapers will emerge stronger and better than ever. But journalists and readers alike will need to take a collective deep breath and ride out the storm." With all due respect to the author (and to the print editor who chose to publish it), there's scant evidence in the piece to support her claim.
A lot of what is happening in information dissemination now is analogous to the rise of the wire services in the late 19th century– only now it's happening at the individual level. In effect, the feeds we construct in our news aggregators are our wire service. The only difference is that we don't have trustworthy, professional editors filtering content. That leaves us with the conundrum of information overload ... Enter the newsmaster.
... you and I are under a tsunami of information coming at us. It increases day by day and shows no signs of stopping. The number of interesting sources and blogs we like to follow increases daily and so the time required then to separate what is relevant to us from what is not. The newsmaster plays a vital role in this information economy. It saves you from having to go out and check all of the relevant news sources that publish news that may interest you. SHe acts as a filter