Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The death of print, and the Spotify model for news...

This was originaly written as a forum post at All Media Scotland, in response to an article by Professor Brian McNair.

Prince's Lovesexy? Hmm...

First CD I ever heard was at a demonstration evening in the old Albany Hotel. Inevitably, it was Love Over Gold by Dire Straits.

I still remember the guys from Linn Products' militant refusal to accept that the eerie lack of hiss and scratchiness implied superiority to vinyl. CD was 'less musical'. Analogue, they claimed, would always be 'better'. Bigger dynamic range, lack of edginess, etc etc. Now, of course, they make some of the best CD players in the world...

Brian's interesting piece brought all this back. But his assertion of vinyl's disadvantages in favour of CD, coupled with a defence of newsprint's thoroughly 'analogue' advantages over online, surely misses the real lesson of how digital technology has affected the consumption of music.

Because it's not CD that we ought to be looking at, but online music distribution systems. Not even the likes of second-stage digital gubbins like ITunes, but more to the point the painfully zeitgeisty Spotify, which puts constantly available, unlimited streamed music onto every computer for the price of a few adverts.

The killer app of said app will be its availability on mobile phones. We're weeks away from that. Soon you'll be carrying access to all the music in the world with you, all the time.

We're not far away from already having access to everything newspapers can offer through our phones. Brian's listing of newsprint's benefits (tearing bits out, flipping back and forward, lovely touchy-feely analogue notions that already reek of nostalgia) can be replicated online (see The Scotch Malt Whisky Association's online magazine, Unfiltered, for example).

Making it work effectively, making it comfortable in the pocket, is the key. The Kindle Reader and its competitors are halfway there. Merge that with an iPhone and some smart software, and newspapers will only be for hacks and luddites.

And yet... it's there, surely, that we'll see both the end of newsprint and the beginning of a longing for its finger-licking inky advantages. Because just as Spotify has fuelled in me a desire to own vinyl and enjoy the (yes) superior sound quality, better artwork and sheer tactile pleasure, maybe mobile phone news consumption will spark off a longing for fumbled broadsheets and smeared tabloids.

Like those newspapers-from-your-birthday gift offers, they'll come in presentation boxes, possibly, and be pored over with little sighs of pleasure. They'll be about memory, not news.

3 comments:

Hallaig said...

I have been enjoying Spotify in the last few weeks. . . and I tend to get my news online . . I am guilty and I hold my hands up . . . I use my local Tescos like a convenience store . . . but you are dead right . . . once its gone its gone and for ever

norrie maclean said...

I have been talking about this in a much less articulate way recently. What an excellent post. We are the poorer in a lot of ways for the advent of digital media.

You lose the joy of ownership, of building a collection, the label, the liner notes, inserts like the Darkness lyrics, buiding up an idea of studios and producers and engineers and dare I say it yet again the b side!

My Nephew is registered blind and he was saying at the weekend that he really missed newspapers. He can get the news but its harder to digest arguments, form debates and opinions....

But you put it better than I ever could. I am not against digital as such it is just that I think we have lost or will lose a bit of that magic.

tntq@yahoo.ca said...

For me it's about content. There's still a herd mentality about newspapers that means there's little to differentiate them from the each other and the press releases. Even the turns of phrases in articles are used verbatim cut and paste from PRs. There's at least more of a protocol with blogging to recognise one's sources, due to the ease of linking to content.