Newspapers: The end is nigher than we thought

Posted on by Mike Evans

The death of RSS has been much exaggerated. It was rife around the time, prior to last July, when Google Reader was in its death throes. But other players, including my choice of Feed Wrangler, have given a shot in the arm to the terminal patient. RSS is again alive and kicking.

I thought of this when I woke this morning. For the first time in two years I didn't feel obliged to spend an hour flicking through the iPad edition of The Times. Yesterday I cancelled my subscription and today I feel a sense of relief. The RSS feed from The Times's main competitor, The Telegraph, works flawlessly and I have added a couple of other newspapers which still offer free subscriptions. The Times does offer RSS but beware: It is a crafty ruse to suck you in to subscribing. Feeds are truncated after a few lines and you are invited to pay if you want to read further.

Feed Wrangler and my iOS reader of choice, Reeder, do a good job of collating all this news and I can scan the headlines much more quickly than I could plough through the rather clunky iPad app from The Times. And no advertisements to add insult to injury. For the Mac I prefer ReadKit which offers news feeds and Instapaper integration.

I also rely heavily of Zite and, to a lessee degree, Flipboard. Both offer the ability to create very attractive and readable magazine-format browsers from RSS feeds. Zite I love. It conjures up interesting stories from news sources and blogs I have never heard of. But is confines itself to my known areas of interest. That way I discover fresh information that might not have come through on the more rigid RSS structure in Feed Wrangler.

As you will gather, I am not missing the experience of reading The Times. On the contrary, I feel liberated and have reclaimed an hour of my morning for more productive tasks. I can even watch the morning news on my MacBook Pro while working on other stuff instead of lying in bed with the iPad propped on my knee. What's more, RSS informatin can be linked, tweeted, copied, OmniFocus'd and generally worked with productively. The miserable Times Newspapers app prevents any selective linking or sharing.

Subscription-based newspapers and magazines will eventually fail, of that I am convinced. There is no shortage of free news sources to fill the gap. Some might argue that I am being churlish; that I should be happy to pay for the fruits of journalists' labours. But cost isn't the main factor. I appreciate the more targeted approach to news provided by RSS and other sources of choice. I can decide what to read when I want to read rather than being force fed a miscellany of one-size-fits-all general fodder.

The web subscription model is a last-ditch attempt by the newspaper industry to compensate for shrinking sales of print media and as an effort to jump on the bandwagon of the internet with their antiquated news model. But competition is now tough. Anyone with a free copy of Wordpress can become a publisher and many individuals have made a big success of it, especially in specialist areas such as technology and photography, two of my big weaknesses. This blog is an example, not necessarily of success, but of the ability to have a presence in the wide world.

The days of printed newspapers are numbered, as are the days of printed books. There will remain specialist printed material but the mainstream reader will in future be served by the internet. In fifty years' time this decade will be seen as the period of transition from a four-hundred-year-old publicatishing and distribution model to the brave world of electronic media. Steve Jobs's iPad has played a leading rôle in this transition and this fact will be acknowledged by historians.

Today, then, I have shed my shackles and can concentrate wholeheartedly on the things I need to know when I want to know them and not face them stale on the following morning. I shall be more efficient and less stressed as a result. I am proud of the fact that have not purchased a paper book for nearly five years, nor have I bought a newspaper. In this, I am sure, I am not alone and the trend is clear to see.

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