A recent post on FishbowlNY (“FishbowlNY Readers Respond: What You’ll Pay For”, 12/29/09, http://bit.ly/6zzRMv) explores responder’s views on paying for online content. As someone who has struggled on a personal and professional level with the virtues of print versus digital sources of information I find the results of their poll in line with my own preferences. However, the more I think about this I realize that perhaps I am not evaluating the benefits and flaws of both media in a totally balanced manner.
Like most of you, I come from a predominantly print background. I learn by reading books. I acquire information about current events or areas of interest via magazines, both subscribed to and purchased based on need/want. I was educated in design and how to apply that knowledge to a print medium. Flash forward and I have had to re-educate myself to know how to utilize the vast amount of information and ideas that are readily available online. Professionally I have had to acquire the skills and knowledge that allows me to successfully navigate, filter, and utilize the tools needed to provide online content and to determine legitimate and worthy content from irrelevant fluff, spin, and misinformation.
It just occurred to me that perhaps I’ve been too swift in coming to the conclusion that I prefer receiving my information via a digital source versus a print one. I’ll use newspapers as my example. I’ve been a regular reader of newspapers. Before the advent of instant info via the web, I was happy to glean the facts about local, state, national and world news from my hometown paper. Whatever wasn’t covered in print would surely show up on the daily news on television. How simple life used to be… With the breadth of a tsunami wave online content has taken over as the main distribution channel for news. I can’t say I was adverse to the thought. I happily awaited the time when I could sit down in front of my computer and peruse the news of the day, research for information, and eventually have the ability to participate on a personal level with the addition of access to online content. At that point it seemed that the circle was complete. I could see what was going in, I could pull out what I wanted, and I could add to that circle of information at will. What a perfect setup!
Time passed and I began to realize that some of the information I was reading in the newspaper was “old news”. Why should I care to take the time to read about an event that was already covered online? How could the newspaper expand on what I thought I already knew? Little by little the articles started to shrink in size. The pages were being filled up more and more by ads for local businesses and the like. That’s perfectly o.k. if you have a need for that info, but for me, it started to look more like “fill” and less like substance. I will admit I became disinterested in the newspaper. It “didn’t get it” anymore… My days of relaxing and reading the paper were numbered.
Not to be left behind in the dust cloud of the progression to digital format I readily accepted the challenge. What I hadn’t prepared for was the volume of information at my fingertips. Literally at my fingertips. With a few key strokes I could access information from virtually anywhere in the world. I could zero in on commentary that matched my point of view. I could choose to disregard anything I deemed inappropriate, inaccurate or irrelevant to my needs. It didn’t take long to realize that I had not considered the amount of time and attention this channel of information required. Now, I had to source the media outlet I would choose to receive the latest info. Now, I had to sift through volumes of online pages and determine if I found the “facts” to be just that, factual or fiction. Now, I had to scutinize the source of information to determine who the messenger really was and did they have any particular point of view or allegiance that put a spin on their material. Of course, that scrutiny applies to printed material too. Perhaps I’m naive, but I think it’s easier to hide your true allegiances online.
At this point the flow of information appears limitless. As long as you leave the faucet open there will be a continuous flow of whatever you choose to tap into. How could this be a bad thing? In and of itself online content appears to be no detriment to society. I actually hope it develops into a trustworthy, reliable, accurate, unbiased, and predominantly positive source of information. I am in no way knocking its current and potential benefits. I do, however, wish to step back from my previous line of thought that I had to choose between print or digital – one OR the other. After more consideration I am inclined to reverse my intention to drop printed media in favor of online. Perhaps it’s too soon to jump ship. Instead I think I might paddle back to printed media if for nothing else but to balance my sources. Traditional printed media has been honed from years of service to the public to offer reliable, documented, timely, unbiased, and easily verifiable news. At least that is the presumption. Until the time comes when I can know with certainty that online content follows the same parameters in the presentation of information as print, I will continue to access whatever is offered but with a degree of increased scrutiny. Online content is our present. It is our future. Until I know it adheres to the ethical legacy of print media I think I will be splitting my attention between print and digital media. As the pendulum swings I know that eventually I will be saying goodbye to the print world I’ve come to know and respect. I hope that time doesn’t arrive too soon. Online content deserves the time required to incubate and develop into the potentially premium source of information we all hope for.
Pantone announced today that Turquoise is the 2010 Color of the Year. It will be interesting to watch how the color trends in design and advertising. For more info: http://bit.ly/80Fw1O