As a kid I spend many summer afternoons in the library. Not only did I enjoy reading, but summers were hot and the library kept their air conditioning pumping. I’d get there pretty early to sign up to enjoy the allotted half hour of computer time. I believe there were only three computers at the time. Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego and Oregon Trail were my go to games.
The days at the library usually started that way, were broken up with a book find and usually ended with one of the librarians sending us home (throwing us out) as our energy started to pick up and ultimately we’d tax their reserves.
Among their collections the Seventeen and Glamour magazines were always available. Inside protective plastic covers I always found a much needed respite from my other serious reads, like the Sweet Valley High series. I’d swallow the entire issue at once, hungry for more, but left waiting for the next issue. Their colorful covers called out to me, I really did need to know all 350 Party Hair Styles!
Life was simpler back then, or was it. People always say that but do they really believe it? It might have seemed simple, but only to those simple minded. The truth is, it wasn’t simple. It was just less information at once and many times we were left waiting or really too tired to find more.
In fact, the truth is we love information, lots of it, and quickly. I remember having to hunt for books for homework assignments. The minute my train of thought changed, I’d have to reign them back in or else search for all new info and start again. It was all very time consuming. My curiosities were really met from reading fictions. I learned about all sorts of stuff I never heard of. As a few years went by and we got our own computer life opened up, but only slowly.
Cursed be those who called the house phone and threw you off the AOL. I can still hear the computer trying to connect to the internet. The early days were trying, but still, getting on was so worth it!
CompuServe, America Online, and Prodigy start providing dial-up Internet access.
Sun Microsystems releases the Internet programming language called Java.
The Vatican launches its own website, www.vatican.va.
Approximately 45 million people are using the Internet, with roughly 30 million of those in North America (United States and Canada), 9 million in Europe, and 6 million in Asia/Pacific (Australia, Japan, etc.). 43.2 million (44%) U.S. households own a personal computer, and 14 million of them are online.
On July 8, 1997, Internet traffic records are broken as the NASA website broadcasts images taken by Pathfinder on Mars. The broadcast generates 46 million hits in one day.
The term “weblog” is coined. It’s later shortened to “blog.”
Google opens its first office, in California.
College student Shawn Fanning invents Napster, a computer application that allows users to swap music over the Internet.
The number of Internet users worldwide reaches 150 million by the beginning of 1999. More than 50% are from the United States.
“E-commerce” becomes the new buzzword as Internet shopping rapidly spreads.
MySpace.com is launched.
Welcome to today. Information, news, reviews, gossip, entertainment and everything in between is available immediately and everywhere. On the train, bus, at home, at work, while in the bathroom, while cooking, pretty much anytime, anywhere (unless of course you have no Wi-Fi and a limited bandwidth plan).
Today, my kids find anything they want and quickly. My son is hooked on watching Minecraft tutorials offered by a Canadian couple. At five this is vital research to improve his building skills, I suppose. He can barely spell but mysteriously well enough to find what he needs. His intuitive device even offers suggestions to offset his limited spelling skills.
My daughter is curious about painting her nails and that’s well, no problem. She pulls up some video blog by Bethany Mota (teenage blogger who coincidentally makes some serious money) and finds some amazing Ombre colored nails tutorial immediately. What is Ombre you ask? Well ask Google. The answer will come to you instantly along with images, videos, reviews, DYI tutorials and more! You want to read a book, no getting to the library or bookstore needed. Just grab your iPad, iPhone, Android tablet, or paper style reader and download that book with the gift card grandma got you for your birthday. Not sure about a book, well download the free sample and see if you are even into it first.
Online and digital news consumption, meanwhile, continues to increase, with many more people now getting news on cell phones, tablets or other mobile platforms. And perhaps the most dramatic change in the news environment has been the rise of social networking sites. The percentage of Americans saying they saw news or news headlines on a social networking site yesterday has doubled – from 9% to 19% – since 2010. Among adults younger than age 30, as many saw news on a social networking site the previous day (33%) as saw any television news (34%), with just 13% having read a newspaper either in print or digital form (http://www.people-press.org/2012/09/27/in-changing-news-landscape-even-television-is-vulnerable/ ).
So what is happening to all the printed material we once heavily relied on? The ones we waited to get hot off the press? Though in decline, many are still being printed but for how long? Many have moved to this new media model.
There was another stark reminder of the sector’s existential crisis in 2012: Tina Brown, the renowned former editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker who was brought in to save Newsweek in 2010, announced that the 80-year-old magazine would cease to exist as a print publication.
With a stark black-and-white cover centered on the old Newsweek building in midtown Manhattan – a building the magazine moved out of several years ago, partly to cut costs — Newsweek put out its last print issue on December 31, 2012, and moved to an all-digital format.
With the magazine’s costs now significantly reduced – though its revenues have been trimmed as well – Brown and the internet company IAC, the magazine’s owner, are betting that the news weekly will find a more promising future online than on the newsstand ( http://www.stateofthemedia.org/2013/news-magazines-embracing-their-digital-future/ ).
As much as I love actual books, bookstores are also on a downward slope. They have been slowly changing their models to include electronic readers, but that might not be enough to keep them above water. They too are in a transitional period.
Borders went bankrupt in 2011, couldn’t find a buyer, and ended up being liquidated. Now Barnes & Noble is losing tens of millions of dollars each quarter and seeing its stock tank. Meanwhile, Amazon has released a rapturously reviewed new Kindle and seen its stock price reach new highs.
A new NBER working paper looks at how people find and buy books in 2013. The shift to digital music has already largely happened, but we’re only in the middle of the switch for books. Based on a variety of data on search behavior, things are looking bad for Barnes & Noble and other retailers.
Though not surprising, these figures do change how we live today and how we will move toward the future. There is a price to pay for this disruption. Jobs will be cut at a time when we need more and some positions will be completely eliminated. Though new jobs will become available, many will be difficult to attain by the hardworking but untrained public. How will the truck driver who delivered all the print fit into this new age?
My undergrad communications professor at St. John’s displayed and wowed us with a NYC Yellow Pages. Who wants it? My hand went up instantly. He had a few copies and I scored one. Today that would go straight to the “recycle” bin but in 2000 that was a #score. They don’t deliver the NYC Yellow Pages to your door in Long Island. You only get the Long Island one. This was huge–every bar and restaurant in my eager, grubby hands. I mean, I had a cell phone but It was TREMEDOUS and clearly had no internet access (plans were terrible back then and my Dad was livid when I went over on minutes and he got a $300 bill).
Today, we can easily search a listing online with images, reviews, directions and phone call a click away (www.lifinds.com). Based on our searches, our very intuitive devices will also offer us suggestions based on our search history. It makes you wonder how we found anything back then.
The print YP are no longer a local advertising medium catering to local business. It is clear that what is left of the print yellow pages has been taken over by regional and national advertisers. One has to wonder though if they ever bother to calculate their returns or they are doing this out of habit (http://blumenthals.com/blog/2013/03/27/annual-print-yp-death-watch/ ).
In short, as our world has grown accustomed to fast paced access to everything and anything available on any device anywhere, many industries are trying to catch their breath and figure out how they fit into this new ever-changing, instant access world. We see companies changing their models and others falling at the new face of times. How will we adjust to these changes? How will those employees find new jobs in new markets? We are at a brink of change and businesses, companies and individuals are trying to figure out the answer to those questions now as well as finding new talent to figure out how to keep their companies on the cutting edge as change is in the air all the time. The new models are fleeting and replaced quickly as media and social outlets are on the rise. It is a slippery slope to navigate.
Anecdotal evidence that digital technologies threaten jobs is, of course, everywhere. Robots and advanced automation have been common in many types of manufacturing for decades. In the United States and China, the world’s manufacturing powerhouses, fewer people work in manufacturing today than in 1997, thanks at least in part to automation. Modern automotive plants, many of which were transformed by industrial robotics in the 1980s, routinely use machines that autonomously weld and paint body parts—tasks that were once handled by humans. Most recently, industrial robots like Rethink Robotics’ Baxter (see “The Blue-Collar Robot,” May/June 2013), more flexible and far cheaper than their predecessors, have been introduced to perform simple jobs for small manufacturers in a variety of sectors. The website of a Silicon Valley startup called Industrial Perception features a video of the robot it has designed for use in warehouses picking up and throwing boxes like a bored elephant. And such sensations as Google’s driverless car suggest what automation might be able to accomplish someday soon (http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/515926/how-technology-is-destroying-jobs/ ).
The only guarantee today is that change is everywhere and constant. Businesses as well as employees have to be constantly engaged in the media and social outlets in order to be in on the constant changes that are ever evolving. Ultimately print, for the most part, is on its way out the door as technological media becomes our biggest outlet for information and entertainment. While this transition will be painful bringing about many winners and losers, society will reap many benefits as well as go through some upheavals in many aspects such as employment and product life cycle changes. Throughout history, upheavals have led to great changes in society which have slowly brought us into times of prosperity.
Do you think print is dead?
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