The Dark Hallway

I heard a great quote today from a newspaper sports columnist regarding the emergence of the Internet and social networking. I was in the car at the time and couldn’t write anything down. Several hours later, I sat down at my computer and typed in as much of the quote as I could remember. Google came through and I found the columnist and an article with the same quote (apparently, he’s using it a lot!). Richard Justice is the columnist’s name, he works for the Houston Chronicle

“Right now, we’re running down a dark hallway as fast as we can go. We have no idea what’s at the end of the hallway because we have to keep trying to figure it out.”

I’ve told a few people that I don’t believe there are many true experts on social networking because the rules are still being written. How can one be an expert on something that is still changing?

Ironically I have a connection to the Houston Chronicle. Years ago my first real job was at the Edwardsville Intelligencer newspaper, which was and is still owned by the Hearst Corporation, who also own the Houston Chronicle. While I was at the Intelligencer, sometime in 1995 or 1996 the Hearst corporation gave a directive to all their newspapers which was something to the effect of “get online”. Of course, back then nobody really knew what that meant (eerily similar to the situation today with social networking, it seems). So all the newspapers basically just did what they could. For being a small newspaper, we at the Intelligencer did quite a bit for ourselves, and for a while we had a friendly competition with the Houston Chronicle, the other newspaper that got an early jump on the Internet.

Seeing how well the Houston Chronicle seems to be doing, perhaps the moral of the story is that the early bird gets the worm. Those who see the coming trends and get on board early will be in a better position than those who wait.

Newspapers and the News

I was listening to the radio this morning and heard a segment discussing newspapers and people’s awareness of the news. The host had read an article in a newspaper stating that 18 to 25 year olds were not aware of what was going on in the world around them, perhaps due to the idea that this demographic does not read newspapers and if anything, selectively gets their news from the Internet. The radio show took 2 random callers and asked them questions about current events in the news. Both callers were very well informed about current events. When asked, neither caller said they read newspapers. Also interesting is that one caller said she never watched televised news, the other rarely. Both callers said they read most of their news on the Internet, with one caller stating she also reads it on her Blackberry.

Of course, this experiment was far from scientific, but it does point out the trend that newspapers are becoming less relevant today, at least in the actual paper form. It also shows that rather than dumbing down society, the ease of information flow that the Internet has enabled may actually make people more aware of current events. Perhaps what we will learn as society transitions to getting their information from the Internet instead of mass media is that the medium makes a difference in whether people are willing to invest their time to receive the information. Just like students who are bored with traditional classroom environments don’t learn very well, when they are presented the same information in an way they find interesting, they are much more receptive and retain the knowledge.

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