Firefox 451. A future without Paper?

Last Sunday I did something quite strange.

I bought newspapers.

I dined out myself on that day because  the clan were all at the young scientist in Dublin.

I hate eating alone so I bought some company.

I had forgotten the joy of spreading out the Sunday newspapers and having an a la carte selection of commentators, features and news to suit my mood.

I truly can’t remember that last time I did this. It brought home to me how online I have become and I’m clearly not the only one.

How did my paperless Sunday creep up on me?

Today I’m in London at a meeting of the NUJ’s New Media Industrial Council.

Late last year I gave a talk on the digital future to a branch of the NUJ in Ireland.

They were all aware that the trade they had joined by various routes twenty or more years ago is dying.

I know what I am doing here now is part of the future.

My Google Analytics tell me that this site has more readers than the Sunday Herald and Scotland on Sunday combined.

My two Sunday papers, one Irish one British, cost me over €5.00.

I know from my NUJ activity that costs are being savagely cut in every newspaper.

Many News Desks are virtually on a skeleton staff.

At the same time the price of the product is being raised as the quality is screwed down by the tyranny of the bean counters.

The print sector seems to be in a tail spin and no one has worked out how to make online editions self-financing let alone profitable.

This economic change is being driven by the new media revolution.

This speech by Professor Roy Greenslade in The NUJ’s Irish conference last year is worth another listen.

In my overnight bag is a small grey device called a Kindle with hundreds of books on it.

This technology is wonderful, liberating, exhilarating, but I grew up with books and newspapers.

I still remember the thrill of my first by-line, an opinion piece in the Scotsman, a quarter of a century ago.

I live with thousands of books they’re old friends. Sometimes I pick one up and find margin note I made before my children were thought of. Often I whoop at the naiveté of a scribbled observation. Occasionally I’m almost impressed at my apparent prescience when I was in my twenties. Almost…

A friend recently told me that she had found some love letters from her grandfather to her grandmother in an attic.

Real treasure.

What will future generations find in their attics?

Text messages?

I still buy cards and sit down and write my thoughts on them to and then send them to people who mean a lot to me.

Then next day or so the people at An Post do the business and there is something tangible from me to another.

I know this would never occur to any of my teenage children.

They have Facebook.

I don’t think we need to take to the woods like Guy Montague and memorise books, writing will survive, journalism will survive, but with all of this information instantly available, I do wonder what lines of poetry or scenes from literature will future generations store in their heads as their secret treasures?

Leave a Reply