RSS usurps old media – yet there are associated problems
Its definitely interesting to see how old media (print – newspapers, magazines, periodicals) are being replaced with new media (blogs, website, RSS feeds), as a trend recently.
Via Zack Urlocker, Infoworld is heading the way of the dodo, in print. They’re moving to a web only publication. So they’re not dying, they’re just reinventing themselves in this connected age – via a web browser or an increasingly popular RSS reader. Steve Fox, Editor in Chief states: “Online bookmarks may be more efficient, site
searches retrieve information faster, but it’s hard to beat a magazine
for its tactility and visceral thrill.” And he’s right – a magazine is something you can pick up at the newsagent, read it on the train, rip articles out, and leave the rest of the magazine for someone else.
Jeff Ooi, mentions PC Magazine Malaysia is going the way of the dodo – completely. They have opted to not even have a website, for their content. That was a magazine that cost less than RM10 per month (two meals at the mamak? Ten teh tariks?), yet they couldn’t provide the value necessary to keep the readers going. It is a safe assumption that most readers prefer to get their IT information fix, via online means (here come the Slashdot, Digg, and various online news sources like News.com, Computerworld, etc.). Besides being free (cost of bandwidth, implied), and ad-supported (most probably blocked via AdBlock Plus or similar), the only real inconvenience is not being able to carry the magazine with you.
However, increased portability of PDAs, the capability of phones to read PDF files, or even subscribe to RSS feeds and get them updated over the wire (via 3G, or WiFi) will make all this paper magazine loss, a thing of the past. What really seems to be lacking, is good syncing software. I like to read my RSS feeds anywhere possible, and more importantly, have them correctly synced – between my Linux Liferea, Mac OS X NetNewsWire, and if possible via a web browser. You’re telling me to go look at Google Reader right now – but it lacks one important feature, that is the ability to work offline.
Another thing is how magazines are read. I like to flip through, rip out important articles, and save them, while not actually keeping the entire magazine. How does that work with the online world? NetNewsWire allows me to flag important articles, I could add them to del.icio.us as I see fit, but only the former will allow true searching (but tie me to my Mac). Duplicate feed entries are also a problem – this might be less of a problem with magazines per se, as their feeds tend not to end up on Planet agregators (though some do), but why hasn’t someone implemented a good feed reader with a sensible database backend that removes duplicate posts?
Ideally, a solution to all this will be a feed reader that was database backed, removed duplicate posts smartly, allowed marking articles for saving and easy exporting, killer search through saved articles, the ability to highlight within saved articles, worked in a web browser but with the abilty to work offline. I wonder if Google will come up with an elegant solution, using some of the offline AJAX features found in Zimbra Desktop.