Grandmas, Newspapers, and the Internet

My living Grandmother won’t read this post, unless my mom prints it out for her and hands it to her in person –actually a common practice in my family.

A few weeks ago, I had a phone conversation with Grandma, we talked of politics, and how many companies would not hire Asians when she was my age, and of course, my favorite topic, the internet.

She still lives in a print world, but is very aware of the online world, and ask me to tour her through the internet when I see her. According to social technographics, she’s an ‘inactive’ when it comes to social media, and that’s ok with me.

She loves to see me in print, and stumbles across my name in her newspaper reading? I rarely touch news ‘paper’, as online is far faster, and much more interactive; “you can’t doubleclick paper” I tell her.

Perhaps one of the things that she has over me is wisdom and experience, one observation she’s had over the years is that she’s noticed that “newspapers are getting thinner”.

Despite the generational differences that we have, we’re still the same, we seek information, news, and opinions about the greater world.

Today is a special day, one that I’ll always remember, like every Oct 31st, today is her birthday, Happy Birthday Grandma, I’ll call you in a bit.

  • Everyone keeps calling for the death of newspapers. It is regretful that what will ultimately save newspapers will not be cost effective & a practical consumer product for another 5 years. We ARE however starting to see the first signs of it… It’s called a Kindle (Amazon’s e-book reader). In 5 years we will be able to carry around a “scroll” of sorts made out of paper thin OLED’s … This is the future of newspapers …”doubleclicking” and all.

    Happy Bday Jeremiah’s Grandma!

    http://www.twitter.com/A_F

  • Thanks Andrew

    In a few years, will we really need to buy a kindle? I somehow suspect this technology will start to embed within existing mediums and devices.

    The less devices I have to carry the better.

  • I enjoyed reading this post very much, and just spoke with my Grandmother last night. She always taught me the importance of recording history through letter writing, which is very similar to blogging. So, I print my blog entries and mail them to her. Happy birthday to your Grandmother!!

  • Jeremiah, I do not disagree. The analogy I will use is; Think of one of the first “laptops”. I had a Compaq PC…it was like a 50 pound suitcase…now we have laptops and UMPC’s etc.

    The Kindle in 5 years will be like my Compaq was… Going forward, you and I might read the news on our cellphones (and other devices) but the specific device that I see replacing newspapers is specifically OLED’s. It is the closest experience to actually holding a piece of paper in your hand. For people like our grandparents, they will always want something to hold that feels like holding a newspaper.

  • Jeremiah,

    Generational differences indeed play a part in how we see society. The cool part was hearing about the conversations between you and your grandmother, and while she may not embrace the digital lifestyle, she understands it so clearly. Newspapers are getting thinner and it doesn’t have anything to do with the weight of the paper.

    Perhaps you get at least part of your wisdom from her. 🙂

  • Jeremiah, that was a very “awww” post 🙂
    I am looking forward to the day when I (just an anybody) can roll my laptop like a newspaper and stuff it in my duffle bag. When I can spill coffee on it and it’s ok. When I can rip a piece of it off to spit my gum into and toss out the window. When I can leave it on the bus for the next person to read (o well we already do that with news and blogging). More than anything else… when I can go back to an article like page 20 of January 1995’s issue and not find it gone because of how quickly the internet changes!

  • That smaller/thinner format for more money has spread to every market, and papers have correspondingly smaller budgets. What we’re really losing in this thinification is diversity and niche. Cultural stuff either goes online or goes extinct, and the thinning is a function of not just less content, but less “fluff” to accompany the drop in advertising dollars.

    I’ve worked a bit through the years for a one-guy-and-an-Amish-lady news syndicate that does a single cooking column. Your grandma – just like readers of that Amish cooking column – largely aren’t online yet, though just enough are to merit a website for that little syndicate.

    Until there does exist the technology to bridge that gap – and the browser isn’t necessarily it – there are underserved markets and a mounting opportunity for content producers until the future-available media catch up with the current-day trend. With any luck, that potential will be tapped into by the content producers themselves and make it possible to make a living again by, well, writing an Amish cooking column.

  • You all do realize that my grandchildren will laugh at me for using a keyboard and mouse.

  • Wilder

    There’s other technologies that are feeling the grandma effect.
    Look at radio. I can’t remember the last time I used a stand alone radio. It’s all ipods, itunes and mp3 now. Well, i have to admit i also listen to internet radio vs. AM and FM. And then there is TV. I can watch everything that is important to me over the web.
    …..

  • Happy Birthday to your grandma!

    Enjoy her love and wisdom.

    I used to have weekly phone conversations with my grandma in Romania… she had never seen the Internet, but was very curious, asked me good questions: “But where does all that information come from?!”

    Some days I almost dial her number, forgetting for a second she’s not there to answer the phone.

  • ben

    There are a number of people for whom stuff-on-a-screen doesn’t offer the kind of tangibility – and thus the kind of accountability – that print offers.

    Then there’s the fact that being online runs counter to simplification: a newspaper’s something that you just open, read, and throw away (at home) or leave for someone else (in public). To go online worth a damn, you need a computer, software, an ISP, and an effective way to get your bearings. Totally complicated compared to a three step (buy, open, read) process. If I was dead serious about keeping myself grounded in meatspace, I’d defenestrate everything without delay.

    On the other hand, EVERYTHING is on your computer, not just the newspaper. If the latest and greatest is at all important to you, it’s well-nigh impossible to live without one.

    However, I’m actually here to wander off-topic: earlier this morning you pointed to a Fortune magazine article about the “high earner, not rich yet” cohort. The article implies that thanks to the alternative minimum tax, these people are being punished for their success – and for those who unwittingly find themselves forced into an income stratum where their tax burden actually becomes regressive, this is certainly the case.

    However, the article refers constantly to benefits enjoyed by these households that most of the rest of us can barely dream of – many of which amount to the ability to have several children in rapid succession, with the expectation that they will be afforded every imaginable advantage.

    Those of us for whom student loan payments are still a fresh memory have a VERY difficult time feeling any sympathy, much less empathy, for such folks.

    The broader issue of how strivers ought to be regarded is only slightly tricker: regressive taxes are evil for their thoughtlessness, and bracket creep is little better… but the money needs to come from somewhere. The alternatives would be to return to the punitive tax regime of the Forties and Fifties, or to increase the tax burden of the middle class to the point where the return on striving requires ever-bigger breaks. Umm… no thanks.

  • The problem is not the medium (paper) it’s the content (lots of expensive ads + lackluster reporting).

    Paper is great. When I sit down for breakfast and want to read or go to the beach and want to read or sit in an airport and want to read or walk down the sidewalk and want to read: paper is by far the way to go (and there’s nothing wrong with that).

    My grandmother turns to the obituaries in the paper first thing every morning. That’s what matters most to her. And as long as they keep printing that, she will keep reading the paper. It has the content she wants.

    The newspapers need to find out what content the rest of us want (my guess is it has something to do with hyper-local reporting) and publish that rather than regurgitate AP stories. My friends and I don’t read the newspaper because we hate paper, we don’t read because there is nothing in their we care about.

  • Your mobile phone will have a roll out screen where you can read and watch downloaded content.
    Convenient:
    – not much bigger than your current cell phone.
    – wireless download by 3G or Wifi (preferably overnight at lower rates – sponsored by commercials.

    Newspapers will fade away, as many people have become reporters and influencers by blogging.
    As with any new media or capability, the high number of blogs will decrease again as only the better will remain.

  • In recent months, Jeremiah, I’ve received much inspiration on my social media views from phone chats with my grandma. Because she reads the paper every day and is attuned to the goings-on of primetime TV broadcasting, she knows the news. While she’s never been on eBay or Amazon, for instance, she recognizes the value of each and the power they serve to society.

    Elders in society know a lot. If only more people would talk to their grandmothers about the internet like you and me.

  • Please don’t forget there are “elders” who actively interact across numerous networks. Actually this grandmother is more connected than my children and their friends. My estimation is that for adults work skills trickle into social uses, while the reserve is true for college and school age users.

    This week a local newspaper stopped their traditional service of delivering free copies to schools for student readers. Students and teachers protested because there is limited access to computers for online news.

    Historically, new formats rarely replace the old. They usually coexist.

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