Monday, May 26, 2014

Gadget and Gear: The Anti-Gadget - Newspaper

If you have looked at this website at all you know I really like electronics, gadgets, and stuff. I have almost completely moved from paper-books to e-books, I get my entertainment online, most of my communication is done on a mobile phone. I even read most of my magazines in digital format now. There is one analog, physical object that I still use regularly; the Newspaper.

No one has quite captured reading a newspaper digitally. Don't get me wrong, news sites are good, you can find the news you want very quickly. When I read a newspaper though I don't necessarily know what news I am looking for. I like to just pick up the paper and start reading at one end and not stop till I reach the other. Often I find articles or even advertisements that I wasn't looking for and didn't even know I wanted. Some newspapers are delivering a proper digital edition already. The Macomb Daily, which is the newspaper I subscribe to, does offer a digital edition that appears to be an exact replica of the physical paper, but there is an additional subscription fee on top of the paper one. I would like to see more newspapers move to this model, though you should get the digital equivalent of your physical subscription included.

Even with a proper digital replica of the physical paper, newspapers don't translate well to the digital format, this is a problem inherent in the media. A newspaper is large. I know there are 12 inch tablets and 16 inch laptops, but even these are tiny compared to an actual newspaper. you end up with either tiny print or only seeing a small portion of the paper.  You scroll down websites and digital editions but you turn pages in a newspaper. The mindset is different, the action is different. I don't have any issues with websites themselves, I spend a lot of time getting information and entertainment from various websites and they work great for that but they are just not newspapers. As I pointed out at the top I read digital magazines, it took me a long time to move to them for most of the same reasons. Magazines tried to un-magazine the content. This is great as far as it goes, if I am on a webpage and I want to see this video or listen to that soundbite  I will click on it and do that. When I am reading a magazine though, I wan't pages of text and photos. I wan't to scroll by flipping pages from side to side and NOT up and down (yes Wired I am looking at you.) Most magazines now stick to a digital facsimile of the paper version with links in the text to additional content on their website. In my opinion this is the perfect way to digitize a magazine. I can read the magazine as a magazine and if I want to view a related video or get more information I am taken to the website. The advantages of offline access to the magazine in this format are unbeatable with this format. Newspapers should be handled the same way and while some are, most are not yet.

I would have to give the tactile advantage to newspapers which digital content can never have. Picture it; Sicily: 1927, no I mean Sunday morning, the sections of the paper spread out all over the living room, everyone with a different section trading back and forth. What is the digital equal? Everyone in a chair with an iPad or Galaxy tab ignoring each other while reading articles? Yes, that's an advantage isn't it? I know paper is going the way of the dinosaur and the Dodo, but for every advance we get in this connected lifestyle we loose something as well.

I still subscribe to a physical paper, and I will as long as they offer one.

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