Dry Those Crocodile Tears - Digital Is Media's Future

Sigh no more, sigh no more. A great opening to the movie version of "Much Ado About Nothing," which reconciles women in the Middle Ages to the fact that "men were ever so." Rather than try to change them, they should accept the way things are, the song suggests. The same should probably be said for today's media.

The big news stories of the day are the closure of the print version of the Independent, which will join BBC 3 as being online only. Condolences go to the estimated one hundred journalists who will be losing their jobs in the move, of course. The same applies to BBC3 if there are, as yet, unannounced job cuts accompanying the shift to online only.

However, as we lament how we receive our media, I was struck -- and I really do mean struck -- the other day when my teenage daughter stared intently at vinyl. She had heard of the medium and thought it was pretty strange we'd just invested in a turntable to play our old records and generally laugh at '70s and '80s album covers. Then something odd happened. I asked her to change sides on a Bowie album that was serving as a reminder to us all what a legend he truly was. She looked perplexed. The thought of the "other side" totally confused her. I thought she was just plain lazy -- imagine that, a lazy teenager -- when her next sentence woke me up to how the Millennials and what will follow view media. The truth was, she didn't realise there was music on the other side of the vinyl disc thing that was whirring round. She'd just gotten over the surprise of not being able to skip tracks easily but the thought of physically turning a disc over to hear the other side was a bolt out of the blue.

And yes, if you've seen that picture on social media of a cassette with some tape streaming out right next to a pencil, you'll know that people below a certain age have no idea what use the pencil might be.

Yet here we are lamenting a newspaper which, if enough people bought it, would still be in print. Here we are moaning about books not feeling like books any more and libraries shutting down as we continue to dodge bookshops and libraries and order our next page-turner -- screen turner? -- on an e-reader. Millions more complained about the potential closure of Radio 6 than actually ever listened to it. You get my drift? What we're going through right now is the very early stages of nostalgia, typically for events we ourselves are driving. 

Now, the other big question of the day is one that deserves consideration -- if media goes online how will new talent break through, how will we "find" stuff, won't media just kind of melt into a bunch of links from Google and social media? The obvious answer is pretty much yes, they will -- but that is the nature of online. People are now reading far more widely than they would have done in the days of buying a paper that reflected the views you wanted confirmed.

Today people will read all manner of different news articles, opinion pieces and features from titles they would never have bought or, as often as not, didn't exist in the day of print first. On the subject of new stuff breaking through -- more of an issue for broadcast --  the obvious answer is we now have multiple video sites online and a whole new generation of stars working as vloggers. Again, to go back to my teenage daughter, the vast majority of her video or tv consumption is now online watching Japanese animations and vloggers. 

It's going to be slow, long and lingering death of a thousand cuts, all of them paper cuts, but we are edging toward far fewer newspapers being out there in print. Not all will die, of course not, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see others join the Independent as online only. The Guardian would probably be forced to follow suit today if it weren't propped up by a massive trust fund and there are plenty of other newspapers out there finding the transition from print's dollars to online's quarters a tricky path to follow.

So sigh no more, digital is the way media is going. It's just a thing, it's something that's happening and before you get all nostalgic, answer this. How many print newspapers do you buy every day? At the same time, have you found the web has widened and diversified the media you read and watch, or the opposite. If you're honest, you probably don't have a newspaper delivered each morning and you're now reading all kinds of different views from a wide variety of online sources that you'd have never read before. 

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