Living in a fragmented media world

Jason Fry has a thoughtful piece on the fragmentation of media in the WSJ: A Reality Check for Newspapers (subscription required). He talks about fragmentation of television, music and newspapers.

Some excerpts from the discussion on newspapers:

Articles are emailed around, copied to blogs for commentary, grouped together with stories on the same subject from rival publications, and found by search engines and aggregator services. I have no idea how you’re reading this column. Maybe you found it on the Online Journal’s home page or the technology page. Maybe you saw it because it includes Google’s stock symbol, or it hit your newsreader via an RSS feed. Maybe you followed a link from a blog, Google News or Technorati. Maybe someone emailed it to you. Maybe you printed it out this morning and are reading it now. (However you found it, thank you!)

I can’t control any of that and wouldn’t want to — like any writer, the most-important thing to me is to be read. If the Online Journal started directing readers who followed third-party links to this column to the home page and left them to find their way from there, I’d be furious — because I’d be guaranteed to lose readers who got lost. And if WSJ.com said they were doing that because there were ads on the home page but not on this article, I’d not so gently suggest hiring a competent Web designer instead of suing search engines.

The other thing Copiepresse — and too many content creators — seem to be willfully ignoring is potentially more damaging. Ultimately, what content creators face isn’t new technology, but a sea change in consumer behavior. Consumers don’t want to go back to watching TV at set times, buying albums or reading newspapers page by page. Trying to make them do so using laws that haven’t kept up with technology will fail.

Fragmentation is only going to accelerate. I’ve written about the small percentage of visitors to nytimes.com and washingtonpost.com that visit the home page.

A few weeks ago, Gail Griffin, general manager of WSJ.com, asked what I thought about the information architecture of the site. I didn’t have an answer — most of my WSJ reading is done through Google Reader. The little bit that isn’t is links from friends. I then re-mix the content that I find interesting into feeds on Blue Dot and Google Reader and posts on this blog.

This blog post is also indicative of another problem with traditional newspaper thinking: focusing only on the next day. Good content is good content and can be useful well after publication. I just got around to reading and writing about this story – 12 days after its publication.

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About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is CEO of redesign | mobile. Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. His personal blog is at http://blog.agrawals.org and tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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