January 09, 2003

Pop! Goes the Newspaper

New is not necessarily interesting, nor is old inherently outdated. That's my rationalization for being so far behind on my reading that only today did I discover J.D. Lasica's report from Pop!Tech, the annual north woods digerati jamboree where the cutting edge is sharper than a set of Ginsu steak knives.

Lasica, who columnizes for the Online Journalism Review, asks some of the more prominent PopTechies which news sites they use. Why does it matter, you ask, where Jaron "Virtual Reality" Lanier, Howard "Smart Mobs" Rheingold or Bob "Ethernet" Metcalfe get their news? Because, I answer, they represent the breaking technical and intellectual wave of consumers - and producers - of new forms of media. How much attachment they retain to the printed product, or, in this case, the electronic version of that product, can be viewed as a proxy for the future news consumption habits of the wider public.

So, then, what are they reading? Not newspapers, for the most part. Only Rheingold and former Apple Computer CEO John Sculley have good things to say about newspapers. Rheingold damns the San Francisco Chronicle with faint praise by saying he reads "everything in it" even though it's "not an example of the best journalism in the world." Sculley eschews the websites of the New York Times and Washington Post in favor of their printed parent, but adds, "If I want more information on something I go to Google."

Unfortunately for the Chronicle, Lanier laments that the paper's website, The Gate, is "just an embarrassment that reinforces the media stereotype of the Bay Area as a place of intellectual inferiority." Ouch.

Bloggers and aggregators receive the most positive mentions -- Dan Gilmor, BoingBoing, Slashdot, Jim Romenesko's Media News - as do individual columnists for the New York Times such as Thomas Friedman.

Is there a unified message that newspapers can heed in these choices? Maybe. Certainly these opinion leaders prefer focused content to scattershot story selection; they are drawn to point-of-view and personality; they want their news to be smart, not dumbed down for the lowest common denominator.

These are characteristics even those of us whose lives are more butter knife than cutting edge are likely to adopt in an increasingly wired world that offers us a expanding menu of information choices.

Newspapers need to listen to the voices from the front of the change parade or they will find themselves, yet again, following rather than leading.

 J.D. Lasica Where Net Luminaries Turn For News

Posted by Tim Porter at January 9, 2003 07:32 PM