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Print media must move quicker

Print media must move quicker
Plenty of aspects of 21st-century Britain would strike a chord (unprecedented surveillance, overflowing prisons, a dismantled infrastructure and manufacturing base, active Government persecution of drivers and, soon, smokers, homegrown terrorists) but only one thing would astonish and shock them: the prevalence of the Internet.

According to the doom-mongers, online media are poised to render print obsolete, a view apparently reinforced by every fresh batch of ABCs.

At first, there were websites, muscling in with news that didn’t have to be filed the previous night; then came blogs, podcasts, peer-to-peer networks and sites like YouTube bringing us free TV-on-demand and music, and social networks to organise our non-working lives. The pace of change on the web is so bewilderingly quick that who can predict what it will be like in even a year’s time?

Not the print media, that’s for sure. Sadly, it has always moved with the alacrity of a crippled supertanker.

In the mid ‘90s, the web arrived – but not broadband – and I found my journalistic talents generating demand in that brave new world. But over-ambition in the face of dial-up, and astronomical fees paid to consultants caused a spectacular bursting of the bubble.

It is now clear that print can’t compete with the web in terms of up-to-the-minute news – but I still don’t reckon the web-induced panic in the print world is entirely justified. Has there ever been anything more disappointing and turgid than the blogosphere?

Sites like UK Resistance and Kotaku, admittedly, provide a welcome occasional diversion, but are nearly swamped by the dross surrounding them. Podcasts are merely radio programmes you can listen to at any time. The big games sites – Spong, C&VG, Eurogamer, IGN and so on – are developing nicely, but there should still be plenty of room for informed comment and thoughtful features that pass the 1,000-word mark in the print world.

Sadly, the likes of Future Publishing have mistaken a tricky console transition phase for the death of print and apparently lost their nerve. The whole cover disk arms-race can’t have helped matters, either; nor did belated acknowledgement of the web’s importance.

The fact remains that, right now, you can’t carry websites around with you on, say, the tube or in the toilet, so there’s no reason for punters to shun games magazines – as long as they’re as compelling as they once were. But now that you can get an A-Level pass for the ability to spell your name correctly, and a generation emerges unwilling to read anything longer than a text message, will all journalism become defunct? If so, a return to the Dark Ages beckons...

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