News at Life Speed

by Chris Kenton on August 25, 2006

One of the big airlines I rarely use offered a great way for me to cash in my dormant frequent flier miles–a promotion to trade my miles for magazine subscriptions. It was a total freebie, so I signed up for BusinessWeek, Time and the Wall Street Journal daily newspaper. I already read these publications online, but I haven’t subscribed to the print issues in years. Who needs another pile of paper with old news when you can get the latest information for free at the click of a mouse?

A little note of irony here. I converted to reading news online back in ’95 when Nando News launched online. At the time, I was the editor of a print magazine, one of more than a dozen I’ve worked or written for over the years. My dad was a journalist and newspaperman. My first career job was as a print journalist. But I get 95% of my information digitally. Go figure.

So I order these publications with what suddenly feels like a nostalgic binge. It’ll be nice, I think, to sit on the porch swing with my coffee and read WSJ. And that’s exactly what happened. I found myself kicking back at various times to relax and absorb the news and insight I’m so addicted to. And that eventually led to an unexpected, but not very surprising insight. I’m getting more value out of the print journals than I am online. Why? A simple side effect of psychology: it’s not only the data that matters, but the environment–the experience in which the data is collected.

I’m amazed that it’s taken me 10 years to figure out that print magazines and newspapers really should not die. When I gather information on my computer, I’m firmly rooted in the same environment and attitude I use for so many action-oriented tasks. I communicate through my computer. Think on my computer. Entertain myself on my computer. It’s all so…functional, and rigid. I sit up straight in my chair, staring at a single point in space, processing.

When I read a magazine–just like when I read a book–I can kick my feet up, relax, and absorb. And I’m finding it makes a difference. I read deeper into the stories. I think about them more. I enjoy the experience more. But more importantly, I’m finding that I retain a lot more. It may sound a little strange, but I have the impression that I’m not emulating a computer with my brain–processing so many bits of data–but feeding my brain with ideas. It’s not a function of the information I’m gathering, but the environment I create to gather it. And what a sublte, but effective difference it seems to make.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

jens August 31, 2006 at 3:18 pm

thanks for an inspiring post steve.

personally i spend most of my time in the middle of the spanish desert – in madrid – and most of my information i get digitally – as everybody does.
still i never gave up the real paper experience on the weekends. but nowadays paper is only on the weeknds.
spain has a great newspaper tradition – as most countries formerly run by dictators have , i guess. newspapers were never only for transfering information but much more for people reading between the lines. making a paper here in spain is a subtle art (also the design is very good). then there is the occasional german frankfurter allgemeine zeitung – the paper i grew up with, which has kind of a changing quality – and every weekend there is my faithful companion that tells me to kick back and relax where ever i am on this planet: the Weekend FT.

my personal intake of information has increased in the last couple of years and i quess my brain already works quite different then in the days before make the net my first and last source of information on a regular day.
but when on saturday morning home in spain with the dogs to the newsstand then for breakfast to the regular coffee bar opening the newspaper that after a few minutes in the spanish sun has changed its tactile quality completely and starts to make loud noises when you turn the pages.
it always takes a while to get into the culural reflections and the kind of stuff that i love to read on the weekends – inclueding of course with the priceless shopping tips in the wonderfully named How to Spend it.
it takes a while to get into that kind of slow way of consuming information. but i always start with the ft – before i go tp more regional food for thought – and in the ft i always start on the last page with tyler brule’s “fast lane” column – that makes the transition to he drythmn as smooth as possible
plus of course the touch and the sound of paper – and the coffee in the sunlight – and everybody around me who is up to enjoy life’s sensations and to leave the computer until sunday afternoon – to smoothly switch back

jens August 31, 2006 at 3:20 pm


sorry chris.

please forgive for mixing names.

you may of course edit it.

regards from spain.

Nathan Schock September 13, 2006 at 11:48 am

There are a lot of print newspaper and magazine owners and employees who are hoping that there are a lot of people who agree with your thoughts.

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