The biggest threat to newspapers: not online news

Here’s an interesting and thought-provoking tidbit. Pretty much everyone realizes that print newspapers are struggling. The threats to their traditional subscription model are many, as the internet has opened up all kinds of alternative news sources.

It’s probably equally obvious that Craigslist has replaced print classifieds as the go-to for almost everyone. But Craigslist is free. What happened to the revenue newspapers used to get from classified posts? There’s another hit to the news business from the internet.

http://lifehacker.com/stop-trying-to-keep-up-with-the-joneses-1517336447

Great reminder that lifestyle and spending choices should be primarily influenced by what others choose to do. I found the suggestion at the end of the post to stop watching TV particularly interesting, because I can really see that influence in my own life. There was a time when I watched basically no TV, and watching more commercials later on I realized that those advertisements really can plant little seeds of desire for things we don’t need.

The best thing about the music service Soundcloud is that is that as a listener, it feels like it does everything you want without any catches. You get commercial free audio, available on any device, free downloads if the sound’s creator allows it, and you don’t have to pay for any of it. You can get a similar experience by getting the paid version of Spotify or Google Play Music, but with Soundcloud it’s all free.

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What makes Soundcloud tick? It’s kind of like a cross between YouTube and Twitter, but for audio. Listeners can follow audio creators to get all of their releases visible in a stream on the web or in the Soundcloud mobile apps. There are all kinds of audio content from artists who upload their whole catalog, podcast creators, and an especially thriving remix community.

Soundcloud offers a really beautiful mobile experience, that unlike Spotify or Google’s music offering, you don’t have to pay to take full advantage of. A well designed and functional app works really well in today’s mobile, data integrated world. Soundcloud plays tracks from the cloud rather than local storage, but it’s very seamless and integrates play controls on your lock screen and Airplay capability for iOS.

Since Soundcloud releases are often coming directly from the artist, it’s a really easy way to stay on the bleeding edge, getting previews or even full tracks before they’re released through traditional channels.

Soundcloud lets you comment at specific times while playing an audio file, so it’s like viewing realtime reactions to what’s playing. You can see what others said when they heard the exact thing you’re hearing. Social sharing outside the app is similarly effortless. While other music players can have a rather clunky experience because of long page load times, when you link to a Soundcloud track, it is very easy to access.

Another killer feature is the ease with which users can embed a Soundcloud track inside a blog post. For this reason it’s become a go-to player for many music blogs looking for a better way to share music that doesn’t rely on a more subscription-centered service like Spotify. Soundcloud just wants to play the music.

What Soundcloud lacks is some sort of play queue. While you can make playlists from the app, it’s nowhere near being a full featured player. It feels more limited to playing tracks in reverse chronological order of their posting. If they added the ability to queue tracks up without going through the process of creating and naming a new playlist, it would be really useful.

Of course if they did that, more people might start using Soundcloud, and they’d have to think seriously about adding ads and otherwise supplementing their revenue. But for now, Soundcloud puts artists and listeners closely in touch, and it’s so great because everything about it seems designed for convenience instead being full of the restrictions other services have.

This post is part of a series exploring companies I love and the things that make them great.

Turns out WordPress doesn’t let you use iframes. But here’s a link to some of the best tracks I’ve heard recently.

http://whyd.com/u/51192a037e91c862b2aac767/playlist/4?

How hard do you think the masterminds behind the weather channel are laughing at the success of their plot to troll the nation with winter storm names? 

I mean naming storms Nemo, Orko and Plato? Nemo sounds like a small friendly orange fish, Orko just sounds stupid or possibly like another fish, the killer whale. And Plato? Does that imply that winter storm Plato will be the ideal winter storm? The perfect storm?

But back to Nemo, the fact that it means “No Man” means that it’s basically the name Ulysses gave to the Cyclops. The original “Finding Nemo” was about Polyphemus. 

Thanks to the NYT for facts and inspiration.

I jump back and forth between operating systems quite a bit, but after using Android as my phone operating system of choice for years, there are just a few things that are glaringly different while using iOS. Here they are, my favorite timesaving usability enhancements from Google.
 
Different keyboards
Exceptional text prediction, swipe to type, and amazingly accurate speech to text. You can move back and forth between these options at will instead of just being constrained to the one keyboard of iOS. 
 
Controls from notification shade
Just swipe from the top of the screen and easily toggle on and off wifi, bluetooth, GPS, and other power saving options.
 
Share from anywhere
In a lot of iOS apps, you’re lucky to be able to share to Facebook or Twitter. From just about anywhere in any Android app, you can share to just about any app you have installed. For touchscreen operating systems, it’s about the next best thing to having a more traditional file system. It is huge.
 
Back key and context key
They’re right down there by your thumb for truly easy one handed operation. 
 
The app drawer
With Apple, by default every app is in your face and cluttering up one of your home screens until you decide to hide it or add it to a folder. With Android by default a newly installed app is alphabetically sorted, out of the way in your app drawer until you decide it’s important enough to look at on one of your home screens.

It’s in the news recently that US wireless providers are working on a service to allow text messaging to emergency responders. Everyone assumes this will make people more safe, but will it really?

There are several hidden costs to this possibility, one of which is a lower barrier to contacting emergency services. You can bet that every time there’s a gunshot in an urban area the number of emergency contacts will go up from the 15 people who would call to the 45 that would text.

The other issue with a SMS-based system is that it will make it much harder on emergency operators, already probably receiving a higher volume of contacts, to screen the callers or rather texters. It can be hard enough to get any sort of context in 140 characters, even when you know the person on the other end, to say nothing of when you don’t know them or where they are at the time they’re texting you. When you think about it you can probably imagine the chaos of trying to figure out what sort of emergency it is and where before sending the officers on the street running every which way to actually get to the location.

It may be the way of the future, but it’s going to require some restructuring and possibly some increased costs and the difficulties of dealing with emergencies through a medium that most people find ill-suited for anything urgent. In the real world a text can go minutes and hours without a response, and prolongs any conversation. We’ll see how that translates to emergencies and emergency responders trying to ask questions to find out more.

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