Newspapers Aren’t Aged News – They’re TiVoed News, The iPods Of News!

Like many, I got a laugh out of the Daily Show piece earlier this year poking fun at the New York Times for selling “aged news.” But a talk I heard by Kevin Marks this summer made me realize that newspapers don’t push aged news. They push TiVoed news, or recorded news or stored news. Call it what you want, thinking of newspapers as efficient storage devices, rather than being out-of-date, might increase their respect these days and potentially, their value.

Sadly, I can’t find a video or slides of Kevin’s talk, which he gave at Foo Camp 2009 at the end of August. But it was based off his The Flow Past Web: even better than the RealTime thing post. If I can find any multimedia resources, I’ll add them later.

In his talk, Kevin discussed how despite our current infatuation with “real time” whatever, there are cases where we prefer that things be stalled, stored — yes, even aged. In fact, that we’ll even pay for delay. That we’ll pay a lot for that “free” television show to be recorded on our DVRs, so that we can view it when convenient. We’ll pay for the storage of music on our iPods, so we can listen when we prefer.

It was a really good talk and got me thinking. Hey, newspapers store news for us as well. They’re actually a convenient digest of what’s happened, all carefully compiled for our perusal. So I tweeted back in September:

newspapers aren’t aged news. they’re TiVoed news. it’s a convenience we pay for. but they don’t position themselves that way

That got a lot of retweets, many of them positive, so I’ve been meaning to get a proper post up about it. Robert Scoble finally got me to do it, after tweeting this evening “I wonder how many of them would subscribe to week old newspaper.”

I’m not trying to get into the middle of a “real time news” / “Twitter news” is good or bad argument between mainstream sources. I think they both have their places and both have advantages and disadvanges.

Instead, I mainly wanted to say again that what Kevin pointed out is true. We value storage. We pay for it. We like that convenience. And newspapers are news storage devices.

Usually each day, I read a paper at lunch time, either the Wall Street Journal or the Los Angeles Times. It’s a break away from the computer, and a chance for me to catch up on the world away from the tech and search-dominated stuff that consumes me when I’m online.

I can read about some political development or disaster knowing full well that some of it is already outdated, and that I could run into the house and get fresher news on my computer or television. Despite this, stories that are even a day old are still useful. They get me up to speed. They bring me some recorded news that I haven’t yet encountered. They’re valuable to me.

Newspapers in print are going to find it harder and harder to be places we turn to for breaking news. Online is going to win. We know this already. But as storage devices, newspapers have got online beat.

On a mailing list I’m on where newspapers and books were discussed, there was an interesting exercise people were doing. They were walking down the aisles on airplane flights and noticing how many people were working on laptops, reading kindles, reading magazines, books and yes, newspapers. When I tried this on a short flight, newspapers were by far the “device” still in use.

Hey, that’s just one flight. It’s not a comprehensive survey. But I still see newspapers in plenty of places. And in a world where people seem to be predicting the death of papers or abandoning them, let’s add storage to the list of things that papers provide. They’re the iPods for news, never needing batteries.

If you missed it, here’s the Daily Show segment:

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