Quick, incoherent thought #3: “ambient” distribution

Just been reading a post by Jonathan Kay that suggests the two biggest factors in the decline of print are the death of spare time and the death of community (thanks to Markmedia for the link).

The former struck a chord with me. I am a Radio 4 addict because I can listen to it while I’m doing other things (cleaning the house, commuting to work). I pick up the headlines whilst doing other things.

If time is becoming increasingly squeezed then I suspect the reasons behind someone dedicating half-an-hour of their time to reading a newspaper have to been even more compelling. Being on public transport and having a paper available for free is one of those reasons.

Even if the newspaper is a great product, with fantastic stories, it may not be something that fits into a person’s life easily.

So, when we look at how we can use technology to appeal to new audiences, perhaps we should be thinking media in terms of how much of a person’s time they consume.

Would the ideal be to make distribution ambient? This would mean stories would come to a person because they were part of their surroundings, rather than because they expressly decided to sit down and consume news.

3 thoughts on “Quick, incoherent thought #3: “ambient” distribution

  1. QIR (quick incoherent response) to your QIT: Yes.

    Explanation: I listen to Radio 4 in my sleep, from about 7AM. Once I’m awake and up, I turn it off because the talk interferes with concentration. But the interval gives me a few headlines, most of which get repeated several times elsewhere in the day. Today’s story about the spoof NYT came round again in a phone conversation with a far-off friend this evening, so my ambient listening provided a point of contact.

    Sometimes I stand at the Salisbury Road bus shelter, and if that had news copy on it, I would have browsed while waiting for the bus. I would also pick up a Metro if there was one on the bus.

    I won’t be reading at work, nor using a computer, so the next chance will be on my way home when I stop in at Somerfield for some bread. Perhaps the back of my till receipt will have a short story printed on it. I won’t be buying the full paper as I haven’t time to read more than 2-3 pages. But if today’s bread came wrapped in paper, perhaps I’d have a glance after I got home.

    Then, when I check up on the posts in my feed aggregator, there might be a sidebar with scrolling excerpts from each of my favourite newspapers. Better yet, my reader would be smart enough to learn my reading habits and would flag stories fitting those patterns.

    Sitting to read the paper is a Sunday activity, at best. At all other times, except when I’m at the PC, news arrives ambiently, as you say. That’s because of my work and movement patterns. I would guess that people visiting pubs, gyms, schools, waiting rooms etc could have similar experiences.

  2. My guess is we may well see some kind of swipe-technology (similar to Oyster and cashless credit cards) or a quick uploading port for newspapers. Or an automatic download for the iPhone or something.

    dp says they can’t get the metro in the morning, or don’t want to pick up a full paper. How about a simple piece of kit that allows you to upload the paper to your mobile phone or iPod each morning in just a couple of seconds, so you can then read it on the tube, bus, or when you get a spare moment?

    Ok, I’m a little hazy as to how exactly this would work, but I’m pretty sure the technology exists to do this, and it’s a route I can see daily papers going down.

  3. Pingback: The market don’t care about journalism « Gary Andrews

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