Some time ago I worked with Walter Cronkite. The first time I met him we were talking about finding information with search engines, and I suggested that they were more efficient than looking for something in the newspaper. He told me that he read the newspaper because he learned things he didn’t know he wanted to know.
Steve Rubel says that the BlackBerry and the iPod now far outnumber newspapers on his daily train ride:
New York is a big newspaper town. We have four majors, two freebies plus of course two nationals. During my seven years of commuting to work on the Long Island Railroad, the country’s largest commuter rail, I have watched the newspaper to gadget ratio slide heavily in favor of the gizmos. The machines have won. People spend far more time fiddling with their iPods and Blackberries than they do reading print. It even cuts across all generations.
While newspapers have their problems, they have one great benefit, that serendipitous discovery of new information. I fear that to compensate for tiny screens we will have to narrow our information focus. We’ll have more, newer, and better information available to us, but on fewer and fewer topics.
I love my iPod, and I couldn’t live without the tremendous access to information afforded by the internet. But if you see me on a plane or a train, I can guarantee you that I’ll have at least one newspaper beside me. I read at least two every day, and I read them from front to back. I learn at least one new and random thing every day. And I can’t tell you how many times those random thoughts have become incredibly useful.
Every day I learn something I didn’t know I wanted to know.
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