söndag 20 januari 2013

Newspapers vs. podcasts: 0-1

Something strange happened this morning. There was a 4-page spread in my morning newspaper about the Lance Armstrong doping scandal. The latest developments are apparently that Oprah Winfrey interviewed him and that he admitted to having used performance-enhancing substances during each and every of his seven Tour de France victories.

But this blog post is not about cycling, about Lance Armstrong or Oprah Winfrey, but rather about my reaction to seeing this 4-page spread in the morning newspaper. After spending a minute with the article, I realized I would get much better coverage of that exact same piece of news as part of my weekly podcast listening habits. When I think about it, this particular piece of news will most probably appear either as a part of the next NPR On the Media show (yep, it's there - I checked) and/or as a stand-alone in-depth 22-minute BBC World Service documentary within a month. In fact, I have actually already heard a podcast (was it perhaps a BBC documentary?) about the Armstrong (pre-Winfrey) doping saga. So I skipped the newspaper reportage about Armstrong.

This is bad news for the morning newspapers. It means I have less use of the newspaper. It means that the newspaper is - from my perspective - filled with the wrong things - things I don't care about (like sports etc.). It means that the utility of the morning newspaper has decreased - as an effect of my podcast habit. It lowers my bar for getting rid of the newspaper. I won't do that, I still think what remains is worth the money, but there is a limit somewhere, and this episode means that I'm getting closer to that limit.

So I leafed through today's print issue of Svenska Dagbladet and thought about which news and reportages (2 or more pages) I will hear about elsewhere, in a podcast:

- Lance Armstong admission - check (On the Media or BBC World Service documentaries).
- The frontpage news about a political party risking to fall out of the parliament at the next election - check (that would be SR Godmorgon världen).
- Upcoming World economic forum in Davos - check (SR Godmorgon världen or some thought-provoking angle from NPR Planet Money).
- On Soviet-era design - not a check!

Beyond what I wrote above, what further conclusions can be drawn?

1) I should concentrate on reading stuff that is unique and won't appear elsewhere. The reportage about Soviet-era design is interesting, not the least since that design was functional and durable (environmentally sound) - despite either being directly copied from the west or being ugly (or adhering to a "different aesthetics" :-).

2) In-depth reportages in the morning newspaper are still very shallow compared to podcasts and compared to the magazines I subscribe to. My favorite English-language magazine, The Atlantic, publishes in-depth texts that are unique to me, i.e. that I don't read or hear about elsewhere. My favorite Swedish-language magazine, Filter as well as Axess does the same. These magazines assume you have already read widely and thus have wide frames of reference, but that you haven't read this particular thing. The morning newspaper reportages instead treat the reader as someone who doesn't have a clue about the issue covered in the reportage. Which on the other hand makes it a good source of information for children/youth - so I'll probably keep the newspapers around for at least as long as my children live in my house.

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