When the media loses the message


03/03/2008

In the dead of the night last week, someone delivered our new phone books, carefully wrapped in plastic bags. One large volume of White Pages, for residential listings, and one large volume of Yellow Pages, for businesses.

The kind folks in the phone directory-printing-business then called us on the phone—to make sure we’d received our phone books in good condition. They wanted to make sure we had them in hand.

I didn’t have the heart to tell them that the books never made it into the house. I pitched them straight into the recycling bin next to the garage.

When was the last time you ever looked up a phone number in a city-wide, paper directory? I honestly can’t remember.

There was a similar story over at ars technica last month, where a bunch of EMI (the record company) execs were holding a focus group with some willing teens. As a “thank you” for participating, they offered the kids a big pile of compact discs for free—they could just help themselves to as many of the CDs as they wanted.

None of the teens took any of the discs. Even for free. Too much hassle, I suppose.

Come to think of it, the only time of year I tend to get CDs is around Christmas, as gifts. I dutifully rip them (320kbps), take a brief but appreciative look at the cover art, and then file the CD in the Backup Box deep in the closet of death. (Ok, that’s what my family calls it; the closet with old CDs, the occasional router or Hayes Smart Modem, enough cables to restring the Golden Gate Bridge, and an amazingly odd assortment of different SCSI adaptors.)

Phone books? Don’t need ‘em. Google for most folks or businesses, AddressBook for our friends with unlisted access.

Compact discs? Dead, it appears. Can’t give ‘em away. Download is where it’s at, and vinyl is making a surprising, nostalgic resurgence. I have to admit, I miss the presence of vinyl. Many of the records I have are better engineered than the CDs—they had to be, I suppose, because of the constraints of the record cutting process.

Vinyl doesn’t offer the pinnacle of faithful audio reproduction, but it does offer a sensuous experience, with large-format artwork, the tea-ceremony like handling of the record, sleeve, and platter, followed by the heady anticipation after the needle drops.

Ad-laden phone directories don’t have any sensuous appeal. To me, anyway. They’re just awkward. Compact discs? They’re just a delivery mechanism, and not the most convenient one at that.

If you’re putting out a work solely on CD, you’re in trouble. If you’re not Googleable, and are only in the paper directory, you’re in trouble.

Agility is all about responding to change. Just remember that change isn't confined to software...

/\ndy


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