Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Print is dead // Saving stories for press day is a thing of the past

Published by Mr. C

We've talked a lot recently about our desire to start a new website, with accompanying show. A site relating to the changes affecting various aspects of the media industry right now. That's still very much the plan, and this post would likely have been destined for inclusion there. However, the subject tenuously relates to F1, so lets publish it here and try not to lose or bore any race fans in the process.

I wish I was a punk rocker

We are currently living through and experiencing a massive change in the way information is delivered and consumed. We likely won't appreciate just how big a change it is until long after the fact, and with the benefit of hindsight.

Christine and I can be considered early adopters, embracing change with open arms. We long ago removed all Compact Discs from our home, preferring the convenience of portable audio. Since the introduction of downloadable movie rentals to the UK, I don't think there's a DVD to be found anywhere around here. If you've been following recent conversations in the comments, we're very keen to get our hands on an e-book reader in order to swap legacy paperbacks for their digital counterparts. In short, we embrace what is, for want of a better name, new media.

The internet is the enabler for such new media. The world at your fingertips, information at the speed or light and any number of clichés you wish to throw with abandon. However, the internet we thought we knew is changing more rapidly than one might realise. The commenting doohickey provides a tiny insight into where the real-time web might be heading, a seemingly continual stream of ever updating conversation amongst friends from all corners of the globe. Yet despite the advances in speed, the conversation still relies heavily on links to external sources. The best way of sharing information is still via a link.

One of the most overlooked aspects of the internet is the humble Uniform Resource Identifier (URI), or if you prefer, the thing you type in the address bar of your browser, a link. URI's give information a permanent location on the web. They allow information to be recalled and more importantly in the ever more social web, they allow information to be shared. We might be mildly obsessed by URI's at Sidepodcast - every post has one, every comment has one and we're working on ways to link directly to sections within audio and video shows. In an ideal world, every piece of data would have an associated URI in order for it to be shared, recalled and discussed as necessary... when necessary.

Linking makes the social, well, more sociable and without it conversation takes considerably more effort. Which is why we know print is dead. It's been a long time coming, but social networking has finally rendered the printed page obsolete.

Dead is dead

Remaining marginally rational for a moment, it's probably worth adding that the length of the printed material and the type of content held within appears to have a bearing on just how dead it might be. Short passages of content would seem to be first on the chopping block. Quick snippets of content are easily replicated online. Longer pieces may earn a reprieve, and a novel's worth of content might hang on for a long time to come. Equally print's lifespan could be categorised by type, with news being the first to suffer, while fictional content may survive in print format for many years.

At present, news agencies are going through a significant shake up, with both Associated Press and News Corporation struggling to find business models that work for them and the consumer. Upheaval would seem to be the buzzword of the times.

News providers are struggling... really struggling. As yet there isn't a workable micropayment solution available on the web, and there needs to be. Successful paywalls do exist, Autosport.com have a workable system, whereby timely news articles are available free for 30 days, while opinion pieces are subscription only by default. The system works because every story has a unique identifier which can be shared. All of this means articles can be shared and discussed (and sometimes torn to pieces) here and on other social networking sites. You might say the system is close to perfect and at the time of writing, monthly subscription is a very reasonable £3.75 GBP per month. Except it isn't quite perfect, some people aren't quite ready to let go of the print medium that's filled their coffers for many a year.

Two weeks ago I had a bit of a hissy-fit about a rather silly statement contained within one of the paywalled opinion pieces. It read:

Ferrari believes Massa lost consciousness almost immediately (see MPH column in Thursday's Autosport magazine)...

Magazine? The paper thing sold in shops. Thursday? Four days away. Why on earth couldn't the article be made available to online subscribers there and then? Digital delivery is near instantaneous. If you wait and grab a copy, how might you then share the article amongst friends?

I complained on the Autosport forum designated for such purposes, and while I've been ignored by staff responsible, scheivlak pointed out that four days wait is nothing compared to anyone who receives the magazine overseas.

In a globalised world, paper is a stupid way of delivering timely information. Whilst plugging the paper alternative from an online subscription service is an insult.

Autosport.com did a similar thing thing today with an article on Piquet, so they clearly aren't listening, or they don't understand. The infrastructure is in place, the writing is on the wall, yet it seems nobody inside Haymarket seems to have a clue.

By all means keep producing the paper magazine. Keep producing it until the finances no longer stack up, and the last reader passes away, but for goodness sake have the common sense to make that same content available online and accessible via the humble URI. We rely on it. Put the subscription price up if you have to, we just want to share your stories we want to discuss it now, not next Thursday.

I hope somebody is still reading, it's a long winded complaint, and I'm not even done yet! There is still more to say on this so look out for part two shortly. Regular F1 programming will return shortly.