|Monthly Editorial by Marc Mickelson|
All That's Wrong with the Internet
I bought a bike a few weeks ago, but not just any bike -- a sub-19-pound road bike built for comfort and speed. I knew little about biking -- forks, groupos, century rides -- before I began my research, almost all of which I did on the Internet. It was utterly convenient to search for information on various biking topics on Yahoo!, and the bike I bought, from a shop owner 1500 miles away from me, was an eBay purchase. I typed, clicked, read, and purchased. I ended up finding exactly the bike I wanted for much less than I thought I would have to pay.
With each passing day, the Internet becomes ever more a part of modern life. It's not just the convenience that makes this so, it's the information available too. I was able to research and buy a bike that will make me very happy (I hope) just as easily as I was able to follow Lance Armstrong up Alpe d'Huez -- just as easily as I can study a piece of audio equipment I'd like to buy, or a CD. Many print publications see the promise of the Internet too as they hump to put their content online as quickly as they can. But then others seem to miss the point just as easily -- or misinterpret what's happening around them.
A recent "As We See It" in Stereophile ends with a discussion of the shrinking number of equipment reviews and reduced advertising in the venerable print magazine. "The boom in home-theater and custom-install sales, the diversion of time represented by the Internet and computers, and the uncertainty over the future of music reproduction in the home" are certainly factors for "stagnation of the two-channel market" and presumably less advertising in Stereophile. But with all due respect to John Atkinson, whom I've never met but do admire based on the magazine he edits, it's not the Internet per se that's siphoning off interest, but rather the nature of the Internet as defined by what we all can discover -- about bikes or audio equipment.
I don't know how many of you have noticed, but while Stereophile has bounced from owner to owner and thinned out considerably from its heyday four or five years ago, SoundStage! has grown in terms of its content and advertisers. We publish just as many equipment reviews as Stereophile, and although we don't measure every product we review, we do measure some speakers at the National Research Council in Canada (and will begin measuring amplifiers soon -- watch for an announcement). We also offer monthly columns and music reviews -- and all of this accounts for only one of our SoundStage! Network sites, which are free.
But while Stereophile may be overlooking the Internet as a source of simple competition, other print magazines have decided to take direct shots. The motives here are more easily understood, and ignored, but if the writers of "All That's Wrong with the Internet" pieces actually believe what they write, I can only wish them good luck as they rely on their cattiness to buoy their publications, and egos, instead of accepting the future -- and the Internet. Stereophile has seen the light, and one of their all-time best writers, Wes Phillips, is online in style with his own site, onhifi.com. And yup, he's also a SoundStager.
It's true that the Internet has seen some financial volatility, but this helped to clarify that information is its future, not selling 50-pound bags of dog food. And we'll be there, bigger and better than ever. See you at the top of that next hill.
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