Blogging goes retro, gets physical

April 20th, 2007 by Bill

I chuckled on hearing a story on NPR this week about a publishing company from Iceland — yes, ICELAND! — that plans to launch free daily newspapers in 10 US cities. Apart from the Iceland connection, nothing unusual about that. The rub is that the newspaper content will largely come from selected web bloggers. Its a sort of vanity press — on paper — for the digerati. The publisher will pay the bloggers for their content, but obviously at a lower rate than, say, the NY Times pays Tom Friedman.

The really interesting thing to me is that the whole idea turns on its head the notion that news in physical form is a dinosaur and that everything good is going digital. Not so, it seems; people still like to hold a newspaper, or book, in their hands. Another thought of possible interest to bloggers whose content might be selected for print publication (“Anablogs”?): the Pulitzer Prize awards for journalism haven’t (yet) favored digital journalists. If ya wanna be famous, ya gotta be in print!

NY Times Reader

September 13th, 2006 by Hugh

I’ve just signed up to try out the New Times’s Times Reader as soon as it becomes available. Wired News has already had a preview of the software:

The Times Reader, which will soon be released as beta software, is a souped-up version of “real” paper by way of tomorrow’s web technology. The application attempts to provide an onscreen reading experience that is as familiar as the printed page, only more versatile and interactive.

I find it quite hard to get a feel of what the Times Reader will be like from Wired’s description – but it seems that you will able to browse a frequently updated RSS feed like a newspaper, from the front page to the back, and the pages will refresh immediately. In essence, it will look and feel like the paper edition of the New York Times. The reader is being built with Microsoft’s latest technology. It will take advantage of Windows Vista’s new visual capabilities. There will be a service pack for Windows XP that will enable it in advance of the much delayed new operating system.

Microsoft’s efforts in this direction have already been attacked by blogger Jeff Jarvis. He believes that news should (and is becoming) disaggregated, in the sense that you can hop from one news provider to the other for each story. This is what Google News is doing. It’s breaking up the hierarchy of news publishers.

Still, it seems to me that nothing on screen yet beats the enjoyment of reading a real newspaper. And I’m somebody who spends a good chunk of my day using an RSS reader. I jump around the “disaggregated” world of news because I’m scouring for stories. It’s what I call “work”. I still buy a morning newspaper, and enjoy my half an hour of peace and quiet on the sofa with the “real thing.” What bothers me most about print is that the price keeps on going up – otherwise I would probably buy more than one newspaper. But there’s no way that I’m going to sit at my hot computer for pure relaxation – unless, that is, the Times Reader is really very good. I’ll let you know when I’ve tried it.

Telegraph: Click and Carry

September 12th, 2006 by Hugh

Telegraph 4pmI mentioned recently that Britain’s Daily Telegraph has designed its new office for the multi-media age. Now it’s launched its new evening paper in down-loadable PDF format. It calls the concept “Click and Carry” and it’s designed to print out on A4 so that you can run it off on the office printer and read it on the train home. If you are reading it online, you will find video and audio options, including an audio / video slideshow. Telegraph pm is published at 4pm each day. Look for it in the right column of the Telegraph’s sleek website.

The Telegraph has perfectly combined the advantages of both of digital and paper – but it does so in the reverse fashion to Exbiblio. Under the Exbiblio vision, you buy the paper version, you take out your scanner pen on the train, capture some signature text, dictate some notes into the pen, and then later, when you sit down at your computer, your scanner pen takes you to the digital version. When you live in a Telegraph world, you go to the computer first, and then if you want to read it on the train, you print off a copy. You underline anything that you want to note for later with your ball-point pen. So we have two visions, each a perfect inverse of the other. Which is seeing the world the right way round? I have to admit that the Telegraph’s logic has a lot to be said for it. It’s the way we behave now. Many of us graze articles on the the Internet, but print longer pieces that we might want to read in depth or notate. Exbiblio is asking people to change their behaviour. Your views please….

The Multi-Media Newspaper

September 7th, 2006 by Hugh

If you want a glimpse of the newspaper of the future, you could do no better than take a tour of the Daily Telegraph’s new offices in London. The UK Press Gazzette has been inside the new Telegraph.

In keeping with the Exbiblio vision, paper and digital content will live happily side by side. All print journalists will be put through multi media training courses, and some specialist video journalists will be recruited. The Editorial Managing Editor, Will Lewis, says the Telegraph will develop an entirely new type of journalist.

“There’ll be no old media versus new media, them and us”.

The Telegraph will offer down-loadable PDFs of some its articles that will contain embedded video and audio. This is the sort of content that Exbiblio plans to enmesh inside a paper document by use of its hand-held scanner.

Google’s Newspaper Archive

September 6th, 2006 by Hugh

Newspaper archives going back 200 years are now available to be searched on Google. Some newspapers, such as The Guardian have opened up their historic content for free. Others such as the Washington Post will charge for downloads of old news. Here’s an article from Time about the Wall Street Crash of 1929, and here’s one from the Guardian about the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906.

Meanwhile some leading bloggers have been saying that they’ve given up reading newspapers in paper form. Robert Scoble agrees with his former colleague at Microsoft, Don Dodge, that using an RSS reader allows him to absorb so much news that he doesn’t need to read the “dead trees”. But the fact remains that RSS – which provides an amazingly convenient way to skim the Internet – hasn’t caught on with the wider public.