Posts Tagged ‘newspaper’

The death of print at PAX and Onion

Print media are dying while digital media are blooming. The two are not discrete, though, which prompts the question: what's happening at the intersection, where the electronic entertainment industry is covered by print publications?

This question and others will be the subject of a panel at PAX East, a Boston-based video gaming expo with a comprehensive event schedule for all interests. Here's the description for this session:

The Death of Print
Manticore Theatre
Saturday, March 27, 2010, 1:00pm
It's no longer a secret: Print is a dying medium. The past few years have been brutal for print media in the game space, but the plummeting sales and editorial team layoffs came to a head in 2009. It's no surprise many of the key players at those institutions have moved on to Web-based ventures, but has the industry as a whole ultimately lost something or gained something? In this 60-minute panel, Russ Pitts, Editor-in-Chief of The Escapist, speaks to several journalists who were deeply involved with the events of the past year about the run-up to the decline of print, and the effects on game journalism — and games.

Panelists Include: Russ Pitts [Editor-in-Chief, The Escapist], Julian Murdoch [journalist, freelance], Jeff Green [EA], Chris Dahlen [Managing Editor, Kill Screen], John Davison [Editor-in-Chief, GamePro]

Three-day passes to PAX are still sold out, of the one-day passes for the three-day event, Saturday is also sold out. If you're not amenable to enforcing (see the entry for Jan. 4), then you'll have to forgo PAX's take on the future of print media and settle for The Onion's:

New York Times to charge for online content

The New York Times recently announced that it will start charging for online access in 2011. My friends have been weighing the pros and cons of digital readers, dealing with bulky newspapers while commuting, and the amount of articles they'd be reading before having to pay.

I feel that train commuters are likely to be among the first to take advantage of portable e-readers like the Kindle that are finally maturing. Print advertising revenues have plummeted thanks to CraigsList,, and eBay, so traditional newspapers and magazines have suffered financially in the past several years.

However, the move to subscription-based journalistic content has been fairly gradual, and there's likely to be resistance from readers accustomed to free articles for their RSS feeds. Also, it hasn't yet been proven that battery-powered devices are that much more friendly to the environment than recyclable newsprint. The popularity of microblogs on Twitter and short, text-based mobile updates may be transient as smartphones like the iPhone gain full Web-display capabilities.

As part of my career in the news industry, I've been following these developments closely for the past decade or so and attended many professional conference sessions on the topic. Computerworld still has a biweekly print magazine, but TechTarget, my current employer, is online only and maintains numerous specialized Web sites for business IT audiences.

Progress is inevitable; let's just hope that news organizations reinvest in the staffers needed to produce in-depth, objective content to help citizens and organizations make informed decisions!

Announcing the Plastic Logic Que e-reader

The annual Consumer Electronics Show, or CES, is currently being held in Las Vegas. I've long had my calendar bookmarked in anticipation of yesterday being the release of Plastic Logic's Que e-reader, as its 8.5" x 11" dimensions poses it to become for periodicals what other e-readers are doing for books. From the Que's Web site:

Product Specifications

  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g), USB, Bluetooth ® 2.0
  • Memory: 4 GB (Approx. 3.6 GB available for user data)
  • Display (viewable area): 10.5-inch diagonal, 944 x 1264 pixels at 150ppi, 8 gray levels
  • User Interface: Full Touchscreen, Virtual Keyboard
  • Battery: Rechargeable Lithium-ion battery, charging via computer or wall charger
  • Dimensions: 8.5" x 11" x .3"
  • Weight: Approximately 17 ounces

Supported Formats

  • QUE has native on-device support for PDF, GIF, JPEG, PNG, BMP, ePub, and TXT
  • Using the QUE software on your computer, QUE supports printable formats such as Microsoft Office 2003/2007

The Que's touch-screen interface sets it apart from the Kindle and Nook, which rely on traditional physical input. I believe doing so eliminates a cumbersome layer between the user and the content, and the Que's ability to annotate and highlight text is an expected feature of print media, which e-readers are trying to improve upon. Given that touch screens are available on as affordable and versatile a device as the Nintendo DS, I see no reason not to apply this technology to more practical purposes.

However, the device's price tag definitely identifies it as for "business professionals": models are available at either $649 and $799. And beyond the hardware is the software — which, if previous demonstrations are any indication, still have a ways to go.

It takes a lot of clicks on Plastic Logic's various Web sites before you finally arrive at the page to pre-order the Que, which ships in April 2010. Oddly enough, the page's domain is specifications/ — Barnes and Noble? What involvement does the publisher of the Nook have in this competing product?

Computerworld, one of Plastic Logic's publishing partners, has the full story on the Que, one of 40 e-readers due to be released this calendar year.

Clumsy e-readers and elegant newspapers

The Barnes & Noble nook has recently drawn attention to the e-book market, but let's not forget the falling circulation of newspapers and magazines. They too are trying to adopt to this digital age, yet their attempts to persuade me of their savviness fall flat.

Time Inc, Condé Nast, Meredith, Hearst, and News Corp. have collaborated to create a shared vision for digital editions of their print publications. Here's a demo of their model of the future:

Does anyone else find this example unappealing? Maybe it's the use of a CGI hand instead of an actual, physical user demonstration, but the interface for these digital magazines strikes me as cumbersome and loaded more with bells and whistles than with practical features — as though the device were aimed at luring print luddites, not existing IT connoisseurs. Nothing at the homepage of the SI Tablet, as this particular model is apparently called, dissuades me from that opinion.

The benefits of such a transition may be overrated. Some print newspapers seem to be weathering both this economy and media revolution decently, with below-average losses in circulation, revenue, and staff. It's encouraging news, as hardcopy still has much to offer. In stark contrast to the above stilted proof-of-concept is this functional representation of existing technology:

Some futurists predict that the last print newspaper will be circulated in 2050, after which all written communication will occur digitally. I hope the day is longer off than that, as a healthy democracy will long have room and need for print journalism.

Farewell, Rocky Mountain News

The Rocky Mountain News, a 149-year-old newspaper covering the city of Denver and the world it resides in, shuttered its doors today. Already its staff has offered this final edition video:

Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.

Print journalism has suffered declining readership and advertising revenue for years, paralleling the growth and popularity of the Internet. The further strain of the current state of the economy is proving too stressful a combination for many press outlets to withstand.

I've seen this in my own daily job at a magazine that has shifted its focus from print to online. It is not an easy transition, and we are fortunate that our topic lends itself to an audience that would follow us to that medium. To see an antebellum establishment such as the Rocky Mountain News not share this fortune in its own attempts at solvency is a loss for everyone.

How do we prevent such further closings? Are reporters and citizens who rely on traditional media mired in the past? Or are they guarding our country's best interests by refusing to let "a vital component of American democracy fade into irrelevance"? Should newspapers become a non-profit, as one New York Times columnist opined as their best chance for survival?

I think print media must change to adapt to these times, but that they needn't disappear entirely. There is still a want and need for traditional news coverage. How exactly we get there from here, however, I can't yet imagine. In the meantime, share your thoughts about the Rocky's demise at I Want My Rocky.

(Hat tip to Randy Cassingham)