Saturday, May 20, 2006

The End of ...

Tonight's episode was "The End of Print" ... last week he did "The End of TV" ... you get the idea. When I first heard about this idea, I thought "Great, another series predicting the end of stuff." As someone whose spent his life in IT, I've been hearing about the paperless office for 3 decades now and while computers are more integrated into office life than ever before, we are as far from the paperless office as we've ever been ... paper still rules the business world.

But this particular series, running on CBC Newsworld on Saturdays at 12ET and again at 9:30ET, is a bit more than your usual "The end is nigh" stuff. The first point to make is that the host of the show, Jian Ghomeshi, is a very talented fellow. He's actually a former member of one of my all-time favorite bands, the somewhat obscure (sorry Jian), but VERY intelligent, Moxy Fruvous. From humour like the King of Spain, through solid philosophy like Horseshoes, all the way to the wonderfully absurdist and surreal Present Tense Turine, Moxy Fruvous laid down some seriously worthwhile music.

Nice to see Jian moving on and doing more good work, lol. "The End of ..." series is very though provoking, and the End of Print episode that was on tonight explored some very interesting themes. I loved Margaret Atwood's adamant defense of the book, and I do see her point ... there isn't another more versatile, mobile, and non-technical for of entertainment. If you have light, you have everything you need to get pleasure from a book.

But technology will take over. One of the other counter-points to Atwood was that with one E-book, we can take dozens, or hundreds, or perhaps millions of novels on vacation with us, like we now carry thousands of songs around. That's already happening to a degree, and as the wireless web and handheld devices increase in prevalence, I think we'll see more and more E-book style arrangements. The rise in books-on-tape, especially now with mp3 and media players, is a prelude to e-delivery, I think.

Newspapers are another story. As an old man of 40, I can't live without my newspapers, but I am even an anomaly in my own generation. I am a child of the TV age, a time when newspapers were fretting about losing readership to TV news and the immediacy of live, on-the-scene video. Now its the internet, and even a few new challenges with the loss of classified markets online as well.

I think there's an analog to magazines and newspapers online, one that works VERY well. is one excellent example of this ... Wired is another, and one that has a foot in both worlds. Newspapers and magazines that have existed exclusively in the print world will HAVE to adapt to the new reality of online information. As with ALL other forms of content controlled distribution (TV, radio, newspapers ... where info is fed to you), newspapers will have to come to terms with an interactive world. While old forms of content distribution favoured content control, it will be extremely difficult to put that genie back in the bottle now ... with the interactivity of the internet, any new information medium that comes along will need to deal with people's desire for an interactive experience.

And that's really the theme through all of the "End of ..." series ... its not about the End, but about transformations, about new ways of getting the same kinds of information. In the end, its likely that someone like The New York Times can leverage their print name in the online world, but only for so long ... at a certain point they'll need to provide content that people want.

Check out the series ... its actually posted on the website, so head over to and you can see the last two episodes. I expect the End of Print should be posted shortly as well ... but both episodes posted are well worth the time. They are defiantly 22 minutes well spent.

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