There is a raging debate going on between traditional news (such as printed newspapers) and web news (which can range from reposted articles from traditional news, social media, to commentary/linking from blogs). Unlike the majority of web heads I actually read the newspaper, though not as regularly as before, and see it as a valuable service. My personal opinion is that we’re stuck in transition before the emergence of real digital paper that can effectively bridge the best of both worlds (imagine a physical newspaper with links and other interactive features built in).
Traditional newspapers are a really good source of balanced information. Of course, you choose a newspaper with editorial leanings that match your individual preferences best. However, you still get content created, selected and prioritized by professionals. I like to think of newspapers as a balanced meal.
Web news is like the fast food version of news. It comes in all sizes and flavors. You also get all the choice in what sources you decide to follow. Content can range from amateur rants to traditional news.
Traditional newspapers are losing to web media for the same reasons that fast food edged out slow food.
If you want breaking stories, the web is the best place to get it. You don’t have to wait for the delivery which includes the writing, printing, and distribution time of newspapers. It’s “fresh off the brain” rather than “fresh off the press”. You also get all the inconsistencies and distortion that come with breaking news.
News off the web is free and will always be although there are some premium sources, none of them are so good that they can’t be replaced with free information.
All you can eat news served daily. You only get information you’re looking for. The rest you can filter out effectively or let others do it for you or even a mix of both (especially if you use sites like Digg).
So what’s wrong? How can traditional media compete? Basically, the web is forcing traditional media to adopt the advertising model for their web content (is there any other way?) or continue languishing as the web aggregates all the news floating about to meet their needs.
For the individual it means that your information diet mirrors your junk food consumption in that you only consume what you like be it candy bars or hamburgers and lots of it which can fatten you from all the “empty calories” or ruin your health from all the preservatives and lack of nutrients.
If I only had two choices between traditional and web media as a source of news I’d choose a traditional newspaper any day. I subscribe to 1700+ feeds (mainly to scour the web for interesting stuff as food for thought on this blog) but a regular newspaper really saves me time and energy. It also ensures that I don’t overlook anything important happening in the world.
Having said that I think things will get really interesting when we see real digital paper emerge. Something that seamlessly links traditional papers and the web can really be powerful.