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Internet Overtakes Print As News Source

The Internet has passed up newspapers for the first time this year as the chief source of news for Americans.  This year 40% considered the Internet their main source of news compared to print's 35%.

Source/Pew Research Center

The results of this survey by Pew Research should be an amazing figure by itself. But there is more. This year marks the first time in which 18 to 29 year olds, the next batch of adults who will be buying franchises and small businesses, use the Internet as much as television as their main news source.

It's easy to imagine why the Internet is becoming the chief venue for news and information while the old media just cannot match it. There's a Star Trek episode (see 13:10 to 14:30 of the video) in which books are featured as a simple and trusted media. Shown in the episode is a lawyer's suite. It is an anachronism to all the other episodes, with books cascading over the desk tops (see photo).

Meanwhile, his mini-computer is dark and far away.

But why is his computer so undeserving of his attention? If Captain James T. Kirk's attorney had a warm and fuzzy feeling for the way things used to be, why specifically books? Surely he couldn't have thought that books were exempt from error? And why not go one further step back in time to argue that the classic practice of using papyrus scrolls was even better? After all, a whole book could be seen on one, very long page.

Accessing information for the people in the 1960's Star Trek episodes seemed so much easier than the hours I had to spend in the library to find obscure information in print.

Computers on Star Trek were small and ubiquitous. Their laptops were plugged into some sort of magical electronic network that found the most obscure information in a split second. How way out in left-field was that vision? Crazy, huh?

Star Trek lawyer misses books. See 13:09 min.

Messy ink and paper newspapers, magazines, books, and forms just didn't seem to be able to meet the terabytes of information that future travelers needed all the time and took for granted.  These 23rd century residents could ask to search for anything published in the known-galaxy by vocally asking the device. Unlike our computers now, there was not much typing on Star Trek. All one had to do was to open one's mouth with the preface, "Computer" to get its attention and then ask.

I didn't realize how quickly that world of tomorrow would come.

As the 80s rolled in, a publisher had a discussion with me. He was excited about how our new but smaller 10 foot long mini-frame computer could eventually allow what is now called variable data printing - to personalize articles and information that a reader wanted. The price of a personalized trade journal was way too prohibitive then but the vision was there nonetheless. Databases could be programmed to learn what sorts of things a reader wanted to read about. 

Those were the days before a commercially successful Internet,, long-tails, blogs, hyperlinks, Podcasts, instant messaging, RSS and social media. There was no clue that Web components would make much of this vision possible. 

Part of the problem of newspapers and magazines adjusting to the medium of the Internet is that they are searching for a profitable online advertising model. Another problem is that there is such a proliferation of publishers online that can publish for cents on the dollar. Old barriers to entry that favored big publishers are dissolving. 

The key is to be able to produce great content, no matter what the delivery venue is. Since Blue MauMau's target audience are franchise owners and would-be owners, we cannot afford to be disingenuous or shallow with franchise news. Investors demand of their news sources to cut through the bull. To do that, reporters must question into the truth of a situation. And with new social media technologies that publishing can adopt, frontline knowledge-workers can easily contribute what they know into the realities of a company. 

Here's one small example of asking questions. There are quite a few blogs and newspapers that are running this Pew survey. CNET was one. It is puzzling that Pew says this year 70% of Americans consider that they get most of their news from television, while 40% say it is the Internet and 35% say that they get most of their news from newspapers. Altogether, the numbers crazily show that there are over a hundred percent. There may be confusion with survey takers over the singleness and finality of the word "most". "Most", just like choosing the "best", implies making only one choice, not multiple.

What's truly amazing is that these visions of the future are already upon us. There is a publishing revolution that is taking place before our eyes through the Internet. Surely, if the inventor of moveable type Bi Sheng of eleventh century China, or the fifteenth century creator of the printing revolution, Johannes Gutenberg, could see us now, they would be proud of how ubiquitous print is in the modern world. They would be amazed on how each of us are now able to individually publish the news into thin air and into everyone's offices and homes at the speed of a lightning flash.


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Don Sniegowski is editor of Blue MauMau, the daily news journal for franchise & small business owners. Call him at +1 (270) 321-1268, tweet @bluemaumau or email