Every morning, in front of the metro station on my way to work, I get 24 Heures and Metro, two free dailies. Recently I also started getting Le Journal de Montreal or The Gazette for free in front of the metro.
With 4 newspapers in my bag I get to my office, where I am greeted by the BBC News and the Google News websites, with their dozens of developing stories every hour.
Then my RSS feed presents me with everything brand new and that I should absolutely read. Then I discover that my friend’s blogs and Facebook profiles are updated with some more links, some more stories, more pictures, more and more and more…
Finally, every link I make the mistake to follow on the web, has text ads, contextual ads, banner ads and all sorts of flashing boxes and numerous other links with catchy headlines of more stories I have to follow. Clicking a single story leads to 2, 3 or more other stories on completely different topics.
I call this “media pollution”. I probably didn’t come up with the term, but I sure like to believe I did. For me, “media pollution” is that overwhelming of the senses that happens when consuming today’s media: it’s all those extra links, links to top stories, links to related stories; it’s all those short blurbs in the free daily and on all the blogs and all the news sites, always repeating, echoing each other, retweeting each other all day long.
And this is where the traditional (quality) newspaper steps in, as the antithesis of media pollution. This is the role newspapers could and should have if they wish to survive. When I grab the pages of the Globe and Mail there is nothing flashing, no hyperlinks left and right; there is nowhere to go, but to turn the pages, and go though this one single newspaper.
With unique stories, which don’t repeat themselves, with topics treated in depth and in length, with varied opinions, the newspaper could position itself as an island of calm and depth in the sea of “media pollution”.
Everything is free, short, massively linked and repeated over and over again on the web.
A good modern newspaper should be the opposite: thorough, deep, unique and relaxing. And not-free, because I am glad to pay for this insightful and relaxing product. Have you ever tried enjoying the Internet with a coffee on a Sunday morning? I know I can’t.
If newspapers, be it national, ethnic or regional, manage to position themselves as the anti media pollution, they will thrive for many more years.