Tagged: NYTimes

The Medium: Virginia Heffernan’s Final Column for NY Times Magazine

onward and upward

(Onward and upward for Virginia Heffernan)

Last week marked the final time that Virginia Heffernan’s The Medium column would run in the New York Times Magazine. I think it’s a shame that this column has been rendered obsolete by the magazine’s Secular Overlords (or whoever makes the decisions at the NYTimes).

In the four years that her technology column ran, Heffernan was always a moderate voice in an industry full of overblown hype and wide-brush lifestyle marketing. At once informed and curious, Heffernan’s column (along with Randy Cohen’s The Ethicist — also nixed by the mag last week) became a primary reason for me to read the magazine every week.

Heffernan’s final column for the NYT Magazine addressed the changes in the web over the last 2 years, where commercialized add-ons and targeted promotions have overrun genuine culture and idea exchanges. Heffernan presents the Kindle as an example of a consumer space aimed at the pleasures of culture, rather than the business of it.

Fittingly, I found Heffernan’s columns to be the same way – a lucid examination of the (often) ridiculous eccentricities of the net that increasingly come to define how we live and communicate. Heffernan’s columns were always respite from the histrionics that come with emerging digital culture, and while I mourn the loss of her column, I will enjoy reading its archives and following Virginia Heffernan’s upcoming work.

This Just In – And Reported On Your Tablet

On a quiet news day, if you focus and listen carefully – over the noise barrage from 24hr news services, the hand-wringing sounds of millions of journalists decrying their lot, and the scratching of next-gen journalists at the doors of mainstream media – you can hear a small murmur of information about digital tablets.

Digital tablets, or Tablet PCs, are pen- or touchscreen-interacted computers that emphasize portability and readability, and they’ve been the answer for mainstream newspapers for years now, whether they realize it or not.

The ability to have a small, newspaper-esque (really, more ‘zine-sized) piece of gear that allows user interactivity (ie: hyperlinks, comments boxes, multimedia assets) is the boon the newspaper industry has needed for many years. Newspaper tablets allow a decent viewing size for content, a departure from the phenomenal cost of print production and distribution, and offer a sophisticated multimedia vehicle with a clean, familiar interface.

An article on The Street today discusses that the New York Times is investigating Tablet PCs, mostly in preparation of Apple’s foray into the field (something that, until very recently, Apple has denied any interest in doing). While I disagree with hyping one brand over another (particularly with prototypes), it does seem wise for newspapers to wait until Apple has entered the fray, given how they tend to be game-changers with portable, personal media devices.

Whether these products roll out in 2010 or beyond (and my thinking is we’ll be seeing them sooner rather than later), there’s little doubt that they will shake up the way we consume media – much as the iPod changed how we consume music (and, uh, media).

While I don’t think the news media should try to adapt to every new piece of technology that is released, I think there’s evidence that Tablet PCs will have strong consumer uptake. The smarter newspapers would do well to plan for this revolution now (as the NYTimes, Washington Post, and a few others are doing), rather than waiting for the change in consumer habits to dictate newspaper development.

This could be the make-or-break situation the industry’s been expecting during it’s long, slow decline.