Sometimes I wish there was a script I could plug in that would automatically link to new articles posted by certain writers. Mandy Brown of A Working Library is one of those writers. Everything is pure gold and her most recent post discussing the state of journalism, news, The New York Times, and paywalls is simply brilliant:
[T]he Times paywall does not map to my reading behavior. I don’t read a single source for the news—I read thousands. I consume the news from all directions—from venerable institutions like the Times, to blogs that obsess over particular topics, to tweets from witnesses, and every imaginable source in between. I want news that is the aggregate of all these sources, that admits all of these varying (and often contrary) perspectives. Erecting paywalls between these locations misunderstands the ecosystem that each story participates in. The value I find in the news today is in its connectedness—in the ways in which often divergent sources come together to create a story—not its solitary authority.
This is a fascinating insight that I had not considered when thinking about why the paywall rubbed me the wrong way. Like many others, I was concerned about the general complication and confusion about the setup and pricing structure as well the fact that it’s hard when something that was free gets taken away. I don’t want to pay for something I got for free for so long.
But this idea of the connected story? This was new to me, yet in retrospect feels completely obvious. It started seven years ago when I set up my first RSS reader and started compiling the sites I visited each day. The way I got my news, in that moment, changed and it’s only deepened since. The Times wants me to pay because they think they will be my number one, go-to source, except that’s not the kind of world we live in anymore.
So what does this new world of news look like? It looks like Instapaper, or Readability, or perhaps Flipboard, if Flipboard can learn how to aggregate information in a way that makes sense. It looks like 1-Click, or Kickstarter, or Amazon’s singles. It looks like tools for making timelines or managing primary sources. It looks like dispatches from people on the ground. It looks like startups we haven’t seen yet, because a few smart people (perhaps exiles from newsroom layoffs) are right at this moment looking at the reactions to the Times and starting to plan for how they can do better. It’s both dispersed and connected, social but not inane, reliable and diverse. It looks like many things, because there isn’t going to be a single way forward; the future is, as ever, more complicated than the past.
So what is the future of news consumption? It’s incredibly personal, customized to each consumer yet, in the same breath, it’s beautifully connected, allowing us to see the larger stories unfolding around us.