By PETE GOLIS
Pete Golis is a columnist for The Press Democrat.
Do you use Reeder or Flipboard? What do you think of Yelp or Instapaper? How about Twitter, Pandora, Angry Birds or WolframAlpha?
At this moment, some of you are thinking about how you bring news, entertainment and information into your lives.
And others are saying to themselves: What the heck is he talking about?
This is the problem, isn’t it? We live in a nation divided by how we get our news and information.
In the 1967 movie “Cool Hand Luke,” the late Strother Martin observes: “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”
In 2011, what we’ve got here is not a failure to communicate but a failure to agree on how we communicate.
On Wednesday, media mogul Rupert Murdoch unveiled The Daily, a publication designed for the iPad and other tablet computers. Murdoch and his News Corp. spent $30 million in developing this new digital project, and they expect to spend $26 million a year to keep it going. (Full disclosure: My-daughter-in-law will write a weekly column for The Daily.)
If you want to read The Daily on newsprint, you’re out of luck.
Murdoch is betting that the future belongs to consumers who get their news and information online. Even Murdoch’s best-known print publication, the Wall Street Journal, was an early adopter of the new technology, creating one of the first apps (short for applications) for the iPad.
While all this is sorting out, we are fated to live in confusing times.
If you’re a reader of traditional newspapers and magazines, you’re wondering why your favorite publications are growing smaller (or disappearing altogether).
If you’re comfortable with computers, tablets and mobile devices, you’re trying to match your information needs to the rush of new information sources and applications — some good, some not.
If you’re a publisher, old or new, big or small, you’re trying to figure out how to find an audience, pay the bills and create a business model that will sustain itself over time.
And if you’re a person who cares about good government, you’re trying to figure out what all this means to democracy.
Technology, we learned last week, empowers people seeking to overturn a despotic government in Egypt.
Technology lets people share news ignored by the traditional gatekeepers of information.
Technology allows citizens to learn more about the workings of their government: to watch an online video of the latest city council meeting, to see the agenda and read the staff reports for next week’s meetings, or to learn (as we did last week) of the salaries being paid at local fire districts.
We’re only beginning to identify all the ways that technology can make government more transparent and accessible.
But technology also turns the old business model upside-down. We’re waiting to find out whether digital news organizations will have the resources necessary to pay the salaries of the journalists who cover the war in Afghanistan, investigate government abuses or sit through the endless meetings that lead to decisions that affect your hometown.
Murdoch believes technology will win out. In just a year, Apple has sold more than 15 million iPads, and rival tablets are arriving. Every available study shows that generations raised in the age of the Internet will be more likely to use the Web than those that came before.
For publishers, the challenge becomes to create revenue models capable of supporting quality news products.
The New York Times Co., which owns this newspaper, will soon erect a paywall at nytimes.com, requiring readers to purchase a subscription to view most of the Times’ content. Media watchers say the Times model will provide a critical test of people’s willingness to pay for serious journalism.
Meanwhile, newspapers all over the country are racing to expand their online presence. At pressdemocrat.com, you can read stories, blogs, commentaries and community news, and you can learn about those stories via RSS, Twitter and Facebook.
Others mean to challenge newspapers’ traditional franchises. AOL has mounted a national campaign to establish “hyper-local” news sites, including sites in Sonoma, Petaluma, Rohnert Park and Healdsburg.
And, of course, all kinds of people, businesses and organizations are looking to grow their Internet audiences.
In 2010, Mike McGuire was the first Sonoma County candidate to reach out to an online audience in a big way. Today, Supervisor McGuire has more than 4,600 friends on Facebook. For old-style politicians, the power of this kind of instant communication must seem miraculous.
I find myself with one foot in each world. I like reading newspapers in the morning, but my iPad and laptop remain close by. Twitter and news aggregators, such as Reeder or Flipboard, provide powerful new ways for me to survey dozens of news sources in real time.
As for Murdoch’s latest entry into digital journalism, the technology, graphics and interactivity are impressive, but the content won’t be confused with the New York Times, or the Wall Street Journal. When one of the six categories of news is called Gossip, we understand that Murdoch is aiming at a broader audience.
As faithful readers know, I only reviewed the Gossip section because it’s part of my job. Sometimes, you just have to sacrifice. BTW, did you know Lindsey Lohan is in trouble again?