August 24, 2009

How We're Killing the Newspaper

It's a growing trend: move more information online and remove it from the location it's been traditionally published. We've been seeing this more and more lately. It started with catalogs, which seemed like the best fit for the internet. You could look at the items and shop anytime. However, then came something more near and dear to many people's hearts, the television listings. We all know they're available online, and that's great when you're working and want to plan out your evening and see what's going to be on. However, when you're in your living room in front of the TV, and you want to see what's on now, don't you really want to grab the television section of your Sunday newspaper and just look it up? For those people that don't have Guide-enabled TVs, and don't have Tivo or any other on-screen directory listing, the Sunday TV section was the mainstay of their television experience, the trusted friend that shared couch space but never grabbed for the chips nor balked at the channel selection. But no more. It's been axed long ago, in just about every major newspaper and many smaller ones. Readers were urged to "check their local listings online", never mind that there's still a large contingent of (mainly older) folks that wouldn't know how to navigate to tvguide.com if they had to.

Now another blow has been delivered to these same folks: the removal of the movie theater's listings from the newspaper. In a recent story that shows the progression of this, it's detailed that papers are pulling the movie listings mainly because of one thing: they never had any control over it in the first place. Rather than the community service most folks assumed it to be (after all, movie listings had always existed in the paper) it was instead something very different: it was a paid advertisement put there by either the theaters or the movie studio in general. That being the case, the financial environment lately has necessitated lots of cost-cutting measures, and this was one of them. Apparently the movie theaters and studios think that they're already reaching most of their potential audience members via the internet.

But are they? According to recent statistics, internet usage has indeed grown to encompass the majority of the country, sitting at 74.7% as of this year. While this may initially seem to back up the action to move more data online and remove it from newspapers, consider this: that leaves 25% who don't use the internet. Or, to put it another way, a full quarter of our population. We all know who they are; they're our grandparents, maybe even our parents. They're aunt Sophie who's the nicest person you'll ever meet but never got into computers. They're the guy down the street who stubbornly refuses most technology. They're also the guy who spent years in the technology field during his career, and now shuns all high-tech gadgetry as a way to get back at the career he spent so long toiling at, a kind of middle finger as he collects his pension. These are the people who are being left out, now robbed of their ability to flip open the newspaper to see what movies are playing.

This move also pushes us more and more into the mobile internet territory. While the newspaper used to deliver all this data to us everyday, and it was totally portable and able to be accessed from just about everywhere (i.e., you could buy a newspaper in just about every town, big or small, in the country) now that data is being pushed online with certain expectations. The expectation is that you'll be able to access it, not only from your computer and your easy-chair, but from wherever you are, via your internet-enabled phone. That's right, this is the final piece of the puzzle, the cell phone. As cell phones become more like smartphones, and everybody has one with a data plan, it's expected that we'll all be able to get to this data that's been ripped from the newspaper and plunked online. It's expected that you can get your movie listings, sports scores, weather, and television listings anywhere, at any time, from your phone. While this might certainly leave out the same non-participants we listed before, that list certainly grows shorter when you're dealing with a cell phone. After all, grandma might not have any interest in computers or the internet, but she does have a cell phone in that purse of hers, and certainly someone could show her how to retrieve basic internet from it, even if it's not from a web browser but instead by something like Google SMS, which will return internet data to you in a text message. See, there's many sneaky ways to get the data you need, and not all of them involve a browser. But more and more lately, none involve a newspaper.

And when you put all that together, along with the decline in advertiser dollars in newspapers across the country, and the overall decline in their subscription base, you've got the perfect storm for the decline of the American newspaper, set out to pasture by the arrival of the internet and your cell phone.

August 21, 2009

MI6 Boss's Identity Revealed on Facebook

For those using social networks, especially twitter, URL shorteners have become a way of life and a staple of their tool set. They allow long URLs to be pasted into status and messages using a minimum of characters. While there are many services to choose from, there's inherit risks involved, so be careful what you click on. It is interesting that there is money to be made in this space, due to all the demand, and that's a bit more than some of the other services can say. Twitter has yet to make any real money, although they say they're working on it.

Meanwhile, who knew social networking had a dangerous side to it? Sure, there's always the risk that you'll say something that offends, or that the high schoolers out there will post - ahem - inappropriate photos, but that was largely the extent of it. However, consider the case of the head of MI6 (that's 007's boss for all your James Bond fans out there) who's wife ousted his identity on Facebook. Wow, all those spy movies were right; you really can't trust anyone!

August 20, 2009

Guerilla Drive Ins

Summertime; just the mention of the word brings images to the mind and an almost uncontrollable smile to the face. One of the great traditions of past summers is the drive in, which has all but vanished from the landscape these days. Sure, there's still some around, but nowhere near the amount there used to be. That's why some enthusiastic people, eager to relive this experience, have set up their own. This may in fact be the beginning of the open-source drive-in. We wonder if there's also an open-source popcorn movement.

Meanwhile, what says summertime more succinctly than going to that drive-in on your new motorcycle? Even if you did get it at Best Buy, that is.

August 19, 2009

Unlimited Coffee Time

Ever feel like you're overstaying your welcome when you grab a coffee at Starbucks and then stay there for hours while you whittle away the afternoon? Ever had (or feared) the barista coming up to you and escorting you out because some unseen timer expired and you exceeded your limit? Well, fear no more. Starbucks is proclaiming you can stay as long as you want. We're still not sure how the while "free" wifi works though. According to the story, "Customers (with Starbucks cash cards) get two hours for nothing". Is this just one of their re-loadable cards, and who's checking?

While you're sipping your coffee enjoying your unlimited wifi (or two hours, whichever it really is), check out one of Esquire magazine's best albums, one that every man should own, Van Halen's Fair Warning. But hey, don't feel excluded -- this is also for the ladies out there, since Diamond Dave always was a ladies man. Queue it up and enjoy it, but be ready for the opening track, 'cause it's rough and fantastic.

August 18, 2009

iPhone Artwork and Breakfast

So who says you can't create artwork using anything but Photoshop? Bah, we say -- check out this New Yorker cover created by the iPhone. Well okay, it was created on an iPhone by a real human, but it's still very good. Come to think of it, maybe the iPhone just kicked in some artificial intelligence and did this all by itself? Now that would be a story.

We've now recommended something for you to read, and to complete your breakfast we suggest you go to McDonalds for an egg mcmuffin. Specifically the one in Chicago, where they'll let you know in no uncertain terms when it's ready.

August 17, 2009

The Smartphone Soccer Mom has No Privacy

It's been a while since we've talked about Smartphones, but meanwhile they've kept chuggin' along in sales. So much so that they're the single hottest category in cell phones right now, due to their growth. While normal cell phone subscribers seems to have just about peaked, with seemingly every citizen of every country carrying one, the hottest market is the upsell to smartphones. Heck, now there's reports that soccer moms are one of the largest groups now flocking to smartphones, using the devices to keep track of their broods and their business. Technology's great when it lets you actually achieve your goals. Take that Microsoft, with your endless security patches and driver updates; I'll get my info from my phone, thank you kindly.

While these moms, and everyone else, are busy using their smartphones, they're not just checking calendars and schedules. They're twittering, facebooking, and using all the usual social networking their data plans can handle. There's reports now that twitter may have to adapt to survive, or be sacrificed completely to pave the way for what comes next. This seems doubtful, but it very well may adapt, and even become more mobile-central. There's also reports that past fan-favorite Myspace may be making an offer for iLike.com, which would combine two powerhouses in the online music / social networking world.

Meanwhile, all this data being funneled through your cell phone means a bottle-neck of one thing: your privacy. With all that data coming through one pipe and one provider (whatever cell company you use) some are saying that this could be the end of privacy.