I have been consumed…again….still…with Vatican reporting for my MSM outlet. I have much I would like to cover in this space, and some real progress to recount, but alas, you readers are NOT my paying customers. Yet!? I will be brief here, as my juggling act continues…
Of course sharing worldwide headlines with the priest sex abuse crisis has been the launch of the iPad: the Bishop of Rome and the Monk of Cupertino, if I may….So those rare moments that I am not meeting with Church officials and pondering the meaning of Good Friday for both a secular Jewish Vaticanista and the Holy Father himself, some scattered thoughts of what this would-be revolutionary digital device means for my would-be digital world news project. I had already given a first crack at trying to think through what the iPad could change for this old media guy trying to launch himself in new media: business model, presentation of content, as a tool for actually producing the content. Those questions still stand. But my project has evolved, and more folk have gotten their claws (and more) on the iPad…and I’ve got one big clear thought (and mostly hope!?) about not only what the iPad will and won’t bring, but about the future of the news business in general.
Here goes: so we have all listened to and participated in the neverending heeing/hawing about how digital is ruining the news business and our esteemed profession (HACKS!!), with its flattening everything, the decline in quality and controls, the short attention span, the thirst for gossip, the end of reading. This may all be true, and it may get worse. Or it may not. Indeed, though habits will certainly change, we cannot be sure that it will be linear. That is, attention spans have probably been getting shorter for years thanks to everything from the automobile to tv and video games to microwave ovens, and certainly the internet…but that doesn’t mean, it couldn’t somehow reverse itself after some behavioral or technological tipping point has been reached. It is for just this reason that the iPad is the first gadget that appeals to me, an utterly non-gadget kinda dude who nonetheless grew up a tv addict and is now constantly attached to the internet/blackberry. It could give me digital and all that means aesthetically/experientially, and at the same time help me to lean back, take a bit more time….unplug? For this, it could truly be revolutionary for the platform-formerly-known-as-print-media.
I want my digital project to be driven by the written word (and photography). I’d be happy to have video, but don’t want to have to have video, as people who supposedly know tell you before you even open your biz plan or prototype. Part of me would like to go straight to the tablet, as I’d fantasized about here once. But the web is so many things to many people, the net (on the net) must be cast wide. But right here is the point where I wanted to arrive: we don’t know where people’s habits will wind up, both in terms of consuming and in terms of paying… but we do know this singular fact about what the internet means for the business model, and it is not on the revenue side, but the cost side: one day, every/any producer of news and information will have the option of COMPLETELY ELIMINATING the enormous burden of paying for printing and physical delivery. GONE. period. This we know. That is good news…and the iPad, even for those of us yet to touch it, helps us imagine how we will get there.
And so in this moment of great uncertainty, let us pray for the good people of the Catholic Church, and for that turtlenecked monk of Silicon Valley.