CompuSchmooze Podcast #18: Amy Webb Goes on a "digital diet," Interview with Amy Webb of, 11/8/2006

Amy Webb

In epsiode #18 of the CompuSchmooze podcast, we have a conversation with Amy Webb, a journalist and editor of the DragonFire culture webzine at Drexel University. Earlier this year, Webb stopped reading printed books, magazines, and newspapers, and avoided watching broadcast TV for a month. During that time, she only read what she could obtain over the Internet.

Here’s the text of the related “CompuSchmoozeTM” column as it appears in the Jewish Community Voice of Southern New Jersey in July.

CompuSchmooze November 2006: Amy Webb Goes All Digital, News to Follow
By Steven L. Lubetkin
Copyright © 2006 Steven L. Lubetkin. All rights reserved.

A few months ago, Philadelphia journalist and website editor Amy Webb decided to go on a digital diet, giving up printed news media in an experiment to see if she could survive without newspapers and magazines.

Webb’s experience going without daily newspapers was just reinforcing a trend thats been accelerating for a long time. Younger people simply dont read newspapers that involve pressing ink on paper.

The Audit Bureau of Circulation, the newspaper industry’s numbers cruncher, reported last week that a lot less people are reading newspapers around the country. Some newspapers, like the Philadelphia Inquirer, have reported a drop in readers of the printed newspaper of more than seven percent.

Webb, a web publishing consultant who today blogs at, was writing about technology in the early 1990s when the Internet was first becoming widespread, she recalled.

“One of the hallmarks of American journalism is that we tend to be the first people to report on something and the last to actually implement it,” said Webb, who also edits a news and culture web journal, Dragonfire, for Drexel University.

“We work with journalists from all over the world who do multimedia reporting,” she explained. The stories are made interactive by Drexel students who understand how best to deliver the content in an online environment, she said.

In June, she decided to see if she could forego looking at print and traditional broadcast media for a full month. She described the rules of her experiment in her blog. Basically, it was no printed newspapers, no books (except those that could be downloaded), and no television or radio, unless it could be streamed over the Internet.

Webb was surprised to find that, rather than being deprived, she found she was better informed.

“I had to draw information from a variety of sources,” she explained. “We’ve become very reliant on newspapers and other media to feed us information passively. What I did miss was holding a newspaper or book while taking a bath.”

Webb said one negative reaction was her sister’s complaint that Webbs attention span had become even shorter than previously.

Webb thinks newspapers in the US should look at the BBC’s website as a guide to how they should restructure theirnews operations. The BBC site amplifies traditional reporting with photo albums, audio and video content, tables, charts, maps, and almost never links to sites outside the BBC, she points out.

“They have so much reporting information that they are able to have little electronic files within the site that allow users to click page to page, and that’s something that newspapers could be doing here in the US,” she said.

Newspapers are slowly beginning to recognize that the Internet is going to transform the way they deliver news and supplemental content to their readers.

For example, Gannett Corporation, which owns many of the major newspapers in New Jersey, is holding workshops for its newspaper reporters to teach them how to shoot and edit digital video and audio programs for posting on the newspaper websites.

After conducting a recent press event for a client, I had a call from a Gannett newspaper that asked us to provide digital audio of the press event for posting on the newspaper’s website.

Webb confirms this trend by noting that both the New York Times and the Washington Post have increased the number of multimedia web content producers on their staffs. “Of 74 people on the staff of the online Washington Post, only four are traditional journalists,” Webb contends. The rest, she says, are content producers.

To survive, newspapers will reduce the physical size of the newspaper and invest resources online, because “that is where the advertising money is,” Webb said.

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