The New York Times has an amiable piece of fluff on its Business front page today about The Economist, and how it has remained (relatively) undamaged by the turmoil in the media market. True enough on its face, although they missed at least one aspect of the new world: audio. I don't get a paper Economist any more, so I can no longer show off by brandishing my copy at the news stand. I pay for online access, but I rarely read it there, either. Rather, every Thursday night I download it to my Ipod and I use it as a regular companion for kitchen cleaning, yard work, long drives (one earpod) and such. The execution is not friction-free: it sometimes takes me 10-20 minutes to complete all the this-ing and that-ing, but I figure it will go more smoothly as they and I learn better.
I offer this as a tiny datum on the shifting nature of the information age. And here's another: we just cancelled cable. A few weeks ago Comcast rang us up to say that we'd have to go digital. They sent us the free equipment. We looked at it with sinking hearts and then paused for some back-of-the-envelope calculation. I used to watch the cooking channel quite a bit, but it's got sillier and sillier. We both get some fun out of Stewart and Cobert, but we aren't tethered to them and we can get enough to satisfy us from the website on demand. And for our other enthusiasms, if that is what they are: I like some of those C-span book talks but they're just a out all available on demand. What it came down to is that we were paying $65 a month so Mrs. B could watch Mawsterpiece Theatre on Sunday nights. She said no thanks, so we pulled the plug.
Oh, I'm sorry, the call-in lady said. Is there any problem with the service? No, you just don't have anything we want any more. Local news? No thanks. Sports? No, not us. And that was it.
FWIW, we're going the same way with radio. I'm a sucker for some of the BBC Comedy Quiz shows--available at the website. And BBC Radio News--somewhat inconvenient to access, but no more inconvenient than to wait around for the right time.
Oh, and of course, NetFlix. I loved that story in the Times earlier this week, telling us who they gave it the "net" name years ago in the paper age because they could see what was coming. We still get paper Netflix, but that is only a matter of inertia, like the cable was until just this morning.
And a last word about that Times story, with which I began: Mrs. B still likes her paper Times at the breakfast table and she lets me peek. Of course it was no trouble at all just to link it on line here.