Editorial: #Lifechanger – TiVos for Reading

After punishing you all last week with a novel instead of an editorial, I decided to take it easy on you with a short one this time. In the future I will try to make my editorials more short commentary than long drawn out essays that few would have the time to read. If you were curious about what I had to say with the last editorial and didn’t have a free week to read it all, might I recommend to you  instapaper or Read It Later. You’ll thank me later. Friends, my life has been changed. Bloomberg Businessweek has introduced me to a paradigm shift that I’m certain you will agree with me changes everything. Details after the jump.

Fresh off my feed I found an article from Bloomberg Businessweek titled: Will ‘TiVos for Reading’ Save Old Media? You can read the enlightening article here. I want to draw your attention to the first two paragraphs here:

“For media traditionalists, recent events have proved rather disheartening. Demand Media, a five-year-old so-called content farm that churns out instructional videos such as “How to Save Money on a Date,” went public in late January and is now worth $240 million more than the New York Times Co. (NYT) The Huffington Post, a six-year-old digest of quick hits and strong views, many by unpaid bloggers, was recently purchased by AOL (AOL) for $315 million. Meanwhile, circulation numbers for print publications are generally down, and the monthly audiences at websites such as the gossip blog Gawker are broadly up. It’s more evidence, in case anyone needed it, that we’re living in a media culture defined by appetizer-size articles and hastily assembled content, all tailored for discoverability by search engines.

But don’t write the obituary for long-attention-span journalism quite yet. Go to instapaper.com and download the plug-in for your Web browser. Then install the accompanying Instapaper application to your iPhone, iPad, Kindle, or (soon) Android device. The next time the boss steps away and your midafternoon Web excavation unearths a well researched, brilliantly written article—such as the feature stories in this magazine, if we may be so bold—click “read later” in the browser toolbar. The service acts like a TiVo (TIVO) for words. It will save the story to your e-reader or your tablet so it can be read later on the train, the couch, or wherever you settle in to really read. “We let you save stories for a time when you can actually attentively read them,” says Marco Arment, the creator and sole employee of Instapaper. “You can leave the world of clicks and page views to the Gawkers and HuffPosts.” He charges $5 for a premium version of the app that lets users store up to 250 articles and share them with other users.”

I really truly encourage you to read the whole article. I’m a user of instapaper myself and swear by it though I too often find myself using another tool which I’ll detail later. The tool isn’t that important, it’s the concept that’s bashed me over the head with an epiphany and I see the light at the end of the tunnel for old media. I see it now! For too long I’ve lived under the tyranny of time. You see, I have a form of obsessive compulsive disorder that millions of people suffer from. It compels me to not stop reading something I picked up to read until I finish it, no matter what else I have to do that day.

You see, Brad Stone, a senior writer for Bloomberg Businessweek has shown me something new. For the first time ever, I am able to start reading something and if I can’t finish it because of time, it allows me to save my place and come back to it later. Even better, I can now put aside something I really want to read later and come back to it. Do you see?!? This! This will save old media! Before this, I was never able to leave my magazine on my coffee table and then read it later when I had the time. I was never able to leave a bookmark on the page I was reading, so that I could complete it later. I was never able to skip ads, or annotate my articles. My situation was even more dire online. I could never email an article to myself or bookmark the page.  But now everything is different.

Gee Businessweek. These new fangled tools online show that people are going back to these articles between 6pm and 9pm and also after 10pm when they’re less busy. Proof positive that for *the first time ever* people have been able to read whatever they want, that is in their possession, whenever they want. Lifechanger!

copied without permission

And as for instapaper. I sure did waste my time creating a “Read It Later” folder in my bookmarks where I bookmark articles I intend to read later, usually between 6pm and 10pm when I’m not busy. Google must feel silly having Chrome sync so that all my bookmarks are available everywhere I have a browser. You have saved old media and Businessweek has shown us this truth. Outstanding job! You win the internets.

Snark and sarcasm aside, I do truly love instapaper, though Read It Later is growing on me too. I don’t think these are bad or stupid ideas. In fact, if it wasn’t for Chrome’s sync, I would use them more often. I know the extra benefits they offer such as mobile syncing, and I love them, though I don’t need them as such. What bothers me is this sort of wide-eyed sensationalism that pronounces anything the savior or killer of anything else. The problem of old media is complex and a mere construct that allows us to do, much easier, what we already were able to do, does not deserve any kind of Messiah attributes. It’s foolish and wrong-headed and it’s that sort of provincial/incremental thinking that has practically doomed all but the most financially powerful old media companies. If I tell you we need to cross the ocean, don’t give me a row boat with a bigger and fancier paddle. Build me a bloody airplane.

This is not nerd rage or geek arrogance. Sometimes people should know better, especially people whose job it is. I understand half-assing things is part of the “new paradigm” of the blogosphere (spot all the buzz words I’ve used in this article) but come on, Brad. Come on.

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