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Beyond The Hype: Can Technology Save The Day?

by Elena on January 27, 2010

SupermanLately I’ve been spending lots of time reading and writing about the changing media landscape.  My nerdy inclinations find the topic endlessly fascinating, and I’m not the only one.  Everyone is talking about the future of publishing, and hypothesizing how things will change.

This past weekend I wrote a post about the New York Times’ plan to start charging its readers.  Because online news sites have been providing free content for years now there isn’t a sufficient revenue stream to sustain company costs.  Needless to say, social networking, blogs, microblogs, and the digital lifestyle has all led to the decline in print news, but what can we expect in the future?

Some believe the future lies in distribution.  Today Steve Jobs revealed the name of the Apple tablet that everyone has been buzzing about.  The iPad is a device somewhere in between a smart phone and a laptop.  It has a battery life of 10 hours, much longer than most netbooks, even my little powerful one sitting atop my desk.  Without belaboring the discussion about the iPad , I’ll leave that for the tech whizzes that know what they are talking about, I wanted to discuss the ways new technology is expected to change the distribution of media.

Many are wondering if this little expensive device can save the publishing industry.  The New York Times has already signed on, as well as other publishers, without really knowing what to expect from this 10 inch iPad, but hoping that it will provide some sort of additional revenue.  Many compare the struggling publishing world to the struggling music industry and the problems it faced years ago.  One can argue that iTunes vastly affected the way people obtain music, but to say that it saved the music industry would be an exaggeration.

One important distinction we have to make is the difference between the art and distribution.  Creating music is an art (let’s forget about lipsynching and autotune for a second and focus on real music).  Apple did not reinvent the music scene, but they made it possible for someone to make money off of it (whether or not it benefits Apple more than the music industry or the artists is another discussion).

Just like making music is an art, writing is a craft that one can learn.  Not Apple nor Amazon, nor any other tech company, can reinvent the medium itself.  What they can do however, is innovate the way we receive media.  There are endless options to chose from, which is why big companies are starting to get anxious.  Despite the vast  choices, however, people will continue to have opinions and will buy and use products they deem worthy and of value, remarkable products that Seth Godin describes.  People who value high quality journalism will pay the price to get it, but there will be some growing pains to get there.  As media changes, as well as the marketplace, consumers are looking for something more than a mediocre fix and that is where the art comes in.  Just like artists in the music industry are starting to think of innovative ways to distribute and make a living from their craft, writers and publishers will do the same.  No matter if I read the morning news on my computer, a newpaper, or my fancy new Apple iPad, I will be reading content written by a person, a journalist, a freelancer, or a blogger.  What I hold in my hands won’t change that.

Image via: James Jordan

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