Daily Archives: February 9, 2008

Reading a book vs. Reading the Web

Over at Publishing2.0, Scott Karp wrote an interesting post exploring why he now prefers reading online to reading books. He has discovered that he prefers reading and thinking across the network rather than in a linear fashion:

When I read online, I constantly follow links from one item to the next, often forgetting where I started. Sometimes I backtrack to one content “node” and jump off in different directions. …So doesn’t this make for an incoherent reading experience? Yes, if you’re thinking in a linear fashion. But I find reading on the web is most rewarding when I’m not following a set path but rather trying to “connect the dots,” thinking about ideas and trends and what it all might mean.

His post reminds me a little of the discussion about video games vs. “linear” media. Some video game evangelists argue that games are superior to movies, books, etc. because only games allow players to choose their path and create the narrative and experience themselves. According to this argument, just as Karp finds “reading on the web is most rewarding when I’m not following a set path but rather trying to ‘connect the dots,'” gamers find video games more rewarding than other media because players don’t follow a set path but connect the dots however they want (within the confines of a game’s rules and boundaries).

My general response to that argument is that giving players control isn’t inherently better; it just means players may be looking for something different than movie-goers. Continue reading

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About those "failing" newspapers…

A couple of things jumped out at me in this New York Times story about the sorry state of newspapers. Richard Perez-Pena makes the case that while things have been bad for a while,

what is happening now is something new, something more serious than anyone has experienced in generations. Last year started badly and ended worse, with shrinking profits and tumbling stock prices, and 2008 is shaping up as more of the same, prompting louder talk about a dark turning point.

Most of the evidence is nothing new: circulation keeps dropping; print advertising is falling (especially real estate ads) and online advertising both doesn’t make up for that loss and isn’t growing as quickly as it was; “Job cuts have become all but universal.”

But then there’s this, about three-quarters of the way through:

Newspaper profits remain healthy, but they are dropping fast. For example, the newspapers of Media General, a large Southern chain, had a 17 percent operating profit margin last year, but the dollar amount fell 23 percent from the year before. The Gannett Company’s newspaper division, the nation’s largest chain, had a 21 percent margin, but a 10 percent decline.

Excuise me? I baking powder? Profits are healthy, Gannett has a 21 percent margin — and the fuss is about what now? You want real economic doldrums? Check out the auto industry. Ford lost $2.7 billion in 2007 and $12.6 billion the year before — and those aren’t just losses in market capitalization (that was probably a heck of a lot more), but $15 billion in actual money down the drain. Think they wouldn’t kill for that 21 percent margin? (Their 2007 margin: minus-6.8 percent.) Continue reading