BoyDog Design
Design and more…

I continue to monitor the changing nature of our media. As a designer it’s important to stay on top of trends in design and production. More important – on a personal level – I try to source information about changing standards and practices. Lately I’ve pointed my attention to news – particularly the way it’s collected, processed, and distributed for public consumption. I’ve been trying to notice shifts in ethics, validity, and attachment to special interests. It’s a personal obsession at the moment…

I just came across this article by Edward Wasserman, published in The Miami Herald today. If you have any interest in who is writing the news, I recommend taking some time to read this. Form your own conclusions. Do your own research on the topic. I offer this link as another source of information.

Special interests write `news’ http://bit.ly/4sx9p7

I just came across these links and thought I’d share…

2010 Online Marketing Influencers: Trend Predictions in 140 characters by Trendsspotting http://bit.ly/876UgL

TrendsSpotting’s 2010 Consumer Trends Influencers http://bit.ly/7JPMmg

TrendsSpotting’s 2010 Social Media Influencers – Trend Predictions http://bit.ly/4OWZgV


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.

I’m at a turning point. I receive the local paper daily. Have been for years. My subscription is coming due for renewal and I’m debating the virtues of my continued support for the paper versus the ease of acquiring virtually any information I need online.

I’ve been debating the Pros and Cons in my head for days now…

Pros:

  • The information received via print is perceived to be fully vetted and therefore accurate. I say perceived because there seems to be some movement to rush to print these days and perhaps the facts are not fully explored on all occasions.
  • I enjoy holding paper in my hand when reading versus staring at a screen. My bookcase will attest to my devotion to print.
  • I would be supporting the local paper. Something of a dying breed these days, but vital in many ways to promote a community and unify its residents.

Cons:

  • Current is a word that cannot be applied to all of the articles in the paper. Lately it is routine to find information that I already read about or saw on tv two or three days prior to publication in the local paper. Makes me wonder if they are just trying to fill space or are they really that slow in processing information for print? Either way, for me, it’s a waste of space, time, and money.
  • I realize the economy is not in the best of health and more and more local shops are turning to ROP ads to help push customers in their direction. But, the volume of these ads has increased to the point where I’m wondering on some days where the meat of the news is. More ads than information on those days. Or so it seems to me. This type of noise is not pleasing to the eye and I find that I routinely scan right past a page that is overcome with ink from an overabundance of ads. No ROI for me.
  • Now let’s consider the price. I won’t say it’s ridiculous, but considering much of the info is yesterday’s news for me, I have a hard time justifying the cash out of pocket investment right now. I’m actually surprised that I feel that way. I used to always feel like the local paper was really worth it.

I guess that’s the basics of my considerations in this decision process. I’m a devout student of media. It’s what excites me. It’s what I do. I don’t want to close the door on print, but I find it harder and harder to justify its usefulness. I’m not what you’d call a digital fanatic either. While I enjoy the speed of info pulsing into my personal space via blogs, online news feeds, twitter, facebook, etc. – I have a definite filter in place which cautions me to explore validity, motive, and substance when relying on the info I can gain through these outlets. I wish I could allow myself the luxury of total faith. I know better…

So – where does that leave me? Do I continue to pay to receive information that is old news at times and presented within a waterfall of ink due to the placement of ads? Do I support the local paper simply because it is the local paper? Do I make the paradigm shift to digital? Give up print and swim solely in the online pool of information. Have you been considering the same shift? Is there some other benefit or consideration I’m missing before making my decision?

I truly believe that change is the one constant in our lives. It is inevitable and necessary. Perhaps this is inevitable, but is it really necessary right now?