February 14, 2016

The Internet And Our Ever-Changing Reading Habits

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Like many others, I did a *gasp* noise this week when I heard about the Independent print edition closing. Saddened, too. Twitter went mad with everyone sharing their memories. I just remembered mine: I wrote for the newspaper last year – on the front page it said “Why We Should Tell The Truth About Our Lives by Emma Gannon” – a piece I wrote about that one time I told a five minute story on stage, on a whim, at a Moth Story Slam (aka an open mic night for storytelling). I felt like it was the first time a print outlet had let me write something from the heart. And I was really proud of it. Sometimes you can’t beat that feeling of seeing something in physical form, sitting there on the shelf, waiting to be picked up and read by a passing stranger.

We really really are in the middle of one of the biggest media shifts of all time. Us, here, you and me right now, in the middle of it. Whether you are more of a consumer or a creator, how we interact and learn from the world is changing, rapidly. We love reading and watching quality content but we don’t necessarily mind too much where it comes from. The viral essay called Fuck Off Fund didn’t come via an established, age-old magazine, it was published on The Billford, a publication hosted on Medium. It’s 2016 and we have extremely high standards now when it comes to what editorial we consume; we’re grossed out if something is outdated, or if a website looks shit.

Are we as loyal to one magazine or newspaper? I read articles 24/7 but these come in from all different sources. From a quick survey with my friends, our RSS feeds killed off buying newspapers many moons ago. We don’t care where the video is hosted, we just want to watch the video. I don’t care if something is on Netflix, YouTube or DAVE as long as it’s good. Same with getting news, as long as it’s been verified. We’ve all been there when we’ve seen a tweet breaking the news and then 24 hours later we see a newspaper on a stand saying the same thing. When it comes to reading essays, I go where my favourite writers go. I’m more loyal to reading certain people, than I am to the publications themselves. Tavi Gevinson wrote something for ILY mag recently – a magazine I’d never heard of before. It didn’t matter that the magazine ~brand~ was so new; because Tavi had written something, and tweeted about it, I read it, and I liked it and I put a ring on it. We still need sources to verify news, but when it comes to creativity, I seek this out from very different places now.

New ventures are erupting from the soil every day. Blink and you’ve already missed something. New magazines, new ideas, new content, new apps, new algorithms. It’s a scary thing for people to lose or change jobs. We pretend to like change, but do we really? Scary for people who have only ever known one thing to be true. Scary for people in charge making big decisions. Scary for young people looking for jobs. Things are rising, things are falling – and it’s unpredictable. Nobody knows. Deep down inside my bones I know we are in a really exciting time. But “new” is sometimes synonymous with “feeling anxious”. Like many others, I am sentimental about print. I want to get lost in words on a physical page but it has to be relevant and on the pulse – just like the Internet never fails to be. We are constantly evolving and using new skills – we are all learning more and more every day about an industry that just won’t sit still. It’s up to us to educate ourselves, every single day. It’s exciting.

  • I was shocked too. More so as I remember when The Independent launched. It was a big deal at the time, flagged as a truly independent newspaper, not owned and controlled by moguls. So, to see it end marks something…not sure what. Still processing.

    I never buy newspapers though, I never did. I always found them cumbersome, dirty and the layout clumsy to negotiate. However, I read the Guardian and the Independent every day, online. In fact, I am almost addicted, I check them every morning and evening.

    But, I love print. I mean LOVE. I used to subscribe to Uppercase magazine for a few years, now I buy it from a UK stockist. Oh Comely until they pissed me off. I also subscribe to Creative Review and Ceramic Review, and buy loads and loads and LOADS of indepentent art and creative mags. Like anything Dave Hughes from Ammo produces, Popshot, Girls Who Draw and many, many more. I become riduculously excited when a new indie art/creative mag pops through the door. I tear off the celophane/pull from the jiffy bag and immediately smell. Then, I stop whatever I am doing and read from cover to cover. My studio is full of magazines. Heaving with them,

    But, I don’t buy ‘womens magazines’. Hate them.

    I read voraciously, every day, books, mags and online articles and papers. I subscribe to tons of stuff. My daughter reads too (we read to her as a baby and she has been bought books every month of her life). In fact (proud moment), her teacher told me, in her recent SATS mock for literacy and grammar, she got 75% (no revision). He is a bibliophile and actually said to my husband and me, ‘she is a writer’. I positively beamed.

    As you say, exciting times. It’s the information age, and people have no right/excuse to be ignorant and uninformed any more!

    Lorrie x

  • Good post, here. I would really enjoy reading a post or article by you discussing your thoughts and your friends’ thoughts on how the people who write and distribute the information you’re talking about here can financially profit from it, too. What kind of content would you pay for — what kind of content do you feel you should be paid for (and who should pay) — how and where the profit could come from in today’s digital world. For myself, I am highly unlikely to pay for online content. On the other hand, I love paper media and happily pay for hard copy publications on a regular basis. I consume the content there, too, but my purchase obviously isn’t about the information. I’m buying something else, something I can’t get for free online. I’m not sure what, exactly. Maybe that’s worth exploring here.

My Book

“In love with Emma Gannon’s Ctrl Alt Delete. So funny & smart, and reminding me of some of my own cringe teen Internet exploits!”

– Anna James, former literary editor of ELLE

"Funny, honest, and nostalgic!"

– The Debrief

“Emma Gannon is a bright spark of light in the world. I seriously dig everything she makes”

– Elizabeth Gilbert, bestselling author of Big Magic