We are reading more online than ever, services like Flipboard can make you a personalised magazine on your tablet, online newspapers have appeared with mixed levels of success and of course there are many blogs out there, out here, wherever.
This has led to some unusual crossovers where people lose the distinction between digital and analogue when they go back to paper – we’ve seen videos of kids trying to swipe or pinch-zoom a picture in a magazine and recently someone told us how he’d tried to swipe the page of a paper book he was reading because he’d got so used to reading on his iPad.
Another thing I’ve found myself is when you’re reading something on a site that doesn’t support comments, you scroll down to see what people are saying about the article but there’s nothing, no login button, no comment box. “But how can I say how I feel about this, I have an opinion, there’s not even a Like button”, you think before closing the tab and reading something else. It’s worse when you feel the same way about a magazine article, or TV show – maybe it’s only a matter of time before the appearance of “press the blue button to like this programme”.
The ability to reply to, comment on and interact with the media that was once such a one-way channel giving you their opinion only is becoming ingrained and expected. Writers online don’t have to wait for comments to appear in the limited forum of the letters page, the feedback is instantaneous and often not polite, depending on the subject, but it gives readers a sense of being part of a discussion, being engaged with the subject and the writers, instead of a being just a passive receiver and for the most part this is a good thing – as commenters add more information, weigh up arguments, correct details, correct grammar. There are times that the comments are better than the articles. Many news sites still don’t have comment sections on articles, many say it’s due to the problems of moderating them but with buttons to report misuse (as on Amazon’s forums) the good commenters can weed out the bad.
Of course the downside is that there are always those who just want an argument, we’ll never be free of trolls, but as part of an open and free internet these little havens of discussion should prosper.