Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Digital transformation . . .

I well recall when USA Today hit the news stands.  It was transformative.  The innovation was not simply the addition of color to a world of black and white newspapers but the shortening of the stories so that they could be read more quickly.  In addition to all of this, USA Today had from its beginning an editorial slant and the idea that news included social, leisure, and entertainment stories.

It was not long before most newspapers followed the lead of USA Today.  Even the mighty New York Times made its stories a bit more concise.  The paper became a fixture for those who travel and a staple at hotels and motels all over.  This was not simply a paper but the beginning of a media empire.  Gannett began swallowing up newspapers large and small and revamping them into the mold of USA Today.  Soon all of their papers began reprinting stories from in house sources.  In Clarksville, Tennessee, this meant taking the oldest newspaper in Tennessee and turning it into a shell of its former self.  It was printed somewhere else and its editorial focus was somewhere else so it did not take long before its meager pages were filled with news from somewhere else.

I stopped subscribing a long time ago.  It all began when the online edition arrived and after some bad weather and missed deliveries I was informed that I should simply read it online.  And that was it.  No more were my wife and I to sit down and begin our days with coffee and newsprint.  It has not been the same since.  The Sunday paper is about the size the weekday once was and it is hardly worth the two bucks it costs.  But habits die hard.

My point is not simply to lament the loss of a daily newspaper in a city of well over 200K.  No, there is more.  It is to lament the shift to digital reading which, as I have reported over and over again, lends itself to skimming and shallow reading (and comprehension) that is a bigger problem than the shutting down of the presses.  Ease of access is not all there is.  Study after study has shown the our comprehension from online reading is not nearly what it was and is from print media.

The circulation of 520,000 (with more than 340k of that to hotels) is a long way from the more than 2,289,000 subscriptions USA Today enjoyed only a dozen or so years ago.  While USA Today has established itself as a well-established brand, the brand has lost credibility with advertisers as well as readers.  The real question is whether or not the brand will attract people to a digital platform that must compete with news apps and feeds that can be tailored to interest, preference, and views.  And this is part of the problem.  We have fewer and fewer objective news media delivering a less biased view of what happens in the world.  With it is a declining interest in what happens or why -- for the fruits of our digital pursuit of information tends to reinforce our own views and do little to challenge them with such inconvenient things like facts. 


Anonymous said...

I think the media started losing the people from the 1970s to the1990s in earnest, when the national narrative became fully postmodern and the majority of traditional Americans and values regularly mocked and derided. The left coasts are now more left than ever, and the center more staunchly traditional than ever. Americans today have the advantage of seeing how the revaluation of all values has played out elsewhere. It results in theological and moral anomie.

What opportunity lies for the church is a strong message that, yes, we live in a profoundly fallen world. Look around you! Yet Christ came to heal and reconcile us, to be our righteousness. Listen to the words of Bach’s Cantata for the first Sunday after Christmas:

O humanity, which sins daily,
you shall be the delight of the angels.
their jubilant cry
that God is reconciled with you
has prophesied a sweet consolation.

The angels, which before
shunned you like a curse,
now fill the air in exalted choirs,
in order to rejoice over your salvation.
God, who shoved you out of Paradise
and out of angel society,
now allows you on earth again
to be perfectly happy through His presence:
so thank Him with full voice
for the desired time in the new covenant.

The little angels rejoice over this,
who are gladly with us and around us,
they sing freely in the air,
since God is reconciled with us.

If God is appeased and our friend,
O happy we, who believe in Him,
what can the wicked enemy do to us?
His wrath cannot wrest our comfort from us;
Defiance to the devil and the gates of hell,
their raging is of small use to us,
since little Jesus is our treasure.
God is with us and will protect us.

This is a day that the Lord Himself has made,
which has brought His Son into this world.
O blessed time, now fulfilled!
O faithful waiting, from now on satisfied!
O faith, which beholds its object!
O love, which draws God to itself!
O happiness, which perseveres through trouble
and brings God the offering of its lips!

The true year of jubilation has been brought,
why then should we continually mourn?
Up, revived! now it is the time to sing,
since little Jesus turns aside all sorrow.

Carl Vehse said...

"To your request of my opinion of the manner in which a newspaper should be conducted, so as to be most useful, I should answer, “by restraining it to true facts & sound principles only.” Yet I fear such a paper would find few subscribers... Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. The real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knowledge with the lies of the day... I will add, that the man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors." — Thomas Jefferson to John Norvell, June 14, 1807, The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 10, pp. 417-8.

Arya said...

I really like reading through a post that can make people think. Also, many thanks for permitting me to comment! Digital Transformation