Monday, 19 January 2009

New Technology - The March of the Media

It's always risky to write anything about progress, especially when you can remember when 'new technology' meant an electric typewriter and a fax machine, two dinosaurs of the late twentieth century.

But with the music industry turned on its head, the movie industry living an fear, and newspapers closing all over, it's an issue that won't go away.

It's pretty much accepted that music will cease to exist on plastic discs, tape or anything else except memory sticks and MP3 players, and I'm amazed that Hi-Fi salesmen are still selling huge machines to fill rooms with sound. You can, of course, still buy vinyl - but that's a completely obsolete fad that has revisited as an overpriced trendy toy, that probably won't survive the latest recession. For those that doubt music's 'no return' trip, just look at the closure of music stores - and the desperation to reinvent themselves as 'games shops' and even diversifying into live music (what will they think of next?).

With movies, it's clear that a similar course will be followed; TV is migrating to the web at an accelerating rate and DVD sales are on the skids. Will movies follow as quickly, downloadable by the mother of all broadband, or will it take another step in technology before discs disappear? Too soon to know - but even flat-screen TVs do not seem to have done the trick for blu-ray, and the studios' insistence on regionalization of discs will inevitably damage their profits, while incentivizing bootleggers (go figure!).

Newspapers are a sad tale of self-inflicted pain.

Many people of a certain age are happy with newspapers - "I love newspapers and books and am quite happy to get my news in paper format with my breakfast. I'd be a happy camper if that doesn't change." That's an often expressed view when the topic comes up in forums.

But newspaper sales throughout the western world suggest it is no longer a representative view; sales are sliding all the time, at all levels of newspaper publishing (broadsheet, tabloid, local).

Printed journalism is in terminal decline - and that cannot be fixed, because times are so hard that it's all about paring down to the fiscal bone. So it feeds into a spiral of declining sales / declining quality.

Hence advertising is allowed to influence editorial; no proofreading, little sub-editing, weak editors, 'news' replaced by hastily re-written press releases and celeb gossip.

But the spiral of decline simply cannot be reversed, as in amongst it all, the Internet is breeding a generation for whom buying a newspaper is simply "huh?", as well as recruiting all those older disillusioned readers. Like me.

Sure there's some good print journalism, but not much, and it's shrinking and quality print journos are aging. Most political and financial scandals are revealed - and followed up - on the web, some from TV. Very little investigative journalism arises from print these days. And if you think my views exaggerate the situation, ask yourself three questions about the financial press - theoretically the pinnacle of the print:

  1. Did they see the merchant banking crisis coming?
  2. Did they spot the biggest Ponzi scam in history?
  3. Did they seriously challenge the status quo in any way?

Answers, upside down, of course:  oN oN oN

Whatever you do, you'll not ever recruit young readers; I suppose you could pull back a few older readers.

And what about books? there's the same loyalty to books - among older people. But books have only been around, for most of the population, for 100 years; before that, they were for churches, business and the rich. Mass market paperbacks can only claim about 75 years; easy come, easy go. Again, a generation is already growing up without that 'respect' for books.

How long before technology replaces them?

There's already a plethora of electronic books, and ebook readers. In fact, a multitude of incompatible technologies. The Kindle is probably the most advanced, even though they have the cheek to charge people to download blogs! But suffice it to say that Kindle won't pass the "Heenan Test" - First proposed in 1998, it goes like this - "No device will replace the paperback book until such device is not only easily updateable and rechargeable, but is also capable of being read in the bath." - therefore that revolution is still to come.

And don't start me on mobile phones ...



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home