Bin Laden’s nail in the coffin: goodbye paperboy, hello apps

Despite my position as the head of a graduate program in digital media, I’ve always held on to a plethora of print (a.k.a. “dead tree) newspaper and magazine subscriptions.  They’re usually much cheaper than their digital counterparts, and I liked the often serendipitous browsing experience — not to mention the disconnected zen of knowledge absorption.

However, as my affection continues to grow for the ergonomics, usability and convenience of my iPad 2 and Motorola Xoom, I’m resorting increasingly to the excellent tablet versions of The Economist and The New York Times.  But this morning clinched it for the tablets.  The headline on the rolled up, thrown-at-my-porch edition of The Wall Street Journal read: “Osama Bin Laden, Terror Mastermind Is Reported Dead” (in the smallest middle third above-the-fold of the front page no less).

Hmmm.  Hadn’t I received my first notice of Bin Laden’s death last night around 7:15 p.m. Seattle time?  I was preparing to view the latest Doctor Who episode (streaming it from iPad to  TV set) when the New York Times alert popped up on my tablet screen.  I went to Twitter for confirmation.  Then I opened up my handy dandy White House iPad application (tellingly, I categorize in under “News” along with my BBC, WSJ, NYT, USA Today, Financial Times, Al Jazeera Live etc. apps), and saw that a live announcement from the President was forthcoming.  I popped open CNN on the tablet, but the live stream just wasn’t kicking in.

I admitted defeat, assumed the Internet was under assault by people like me and turned on my TV.  I canceled cable a long time ago, so was happy to resort to my former NBC colleagues (Richard Engel, Brian Williams) in HD via rabbit ears and the Seattle KING 5 stations (I’m always surprised at the superiority of the free over-the-air HD resolution is compared to my memory of Comcast’s compressed hash-job).

Even as I watched TV and checked in with the robust live stream of Obama’s speech via the White House iPad app, I continued to return to the fast-moving Twitter stream.  Apparently my behavior was quite normal.  This Giga Om piece astutely summarizes The 7 States of News in a Twitter and Facebook Era: Excitement, Uncertainty, Searching for Validation, Confirmation, Jokes Profits and Platitudes (the Trump “death certificate” one got old very fast), Action, Real Analysis.

It’s to George Friedman’s global intelligence news site, Stratfor that I ultimately turned to for that “Real Analysis.”  In times like this, Stratfor’s mission, and its excellent “Red Alert” system are exactly what I need:

The company uses human intelligence and other sources combined with powerful analysis based on geopolitics to produce penetrating explanations of world events. This independent, non-ideological content enables users not only to better understand international events, but also to reduce risks and identify opportunities in every region of the globe. [sounds like good journalism to me]

In this morning’s The Tactical Irrelevance of Osama bin Laden’s Death (membership or free registration required), Stratfor concluded that from an operational point of view, this will have no impact on al Qaeda.

Obviously from this morning’s overall news coverage, it has a profound morale-boosting and justice-be-done effect — there’s that power of narrative again for all you Storyteller Uprisers — an emotional impact that is hard to quantify but important to recognize.

Still, I can’t ignore that part of Stratfor’s conclusion as to Bin Laden’s increasing irrelevance was his reliance on infrequent analog communication technology (audio tapes).  And we all know that one of America’s original tip-offs as to his whereabouts was that there was this fabulous compound in the middle of a suburb that had no internet or phone access.  Who does that in this day and age?  Now I’m beginning to wonder whether Bin Laden also relied on rabbit ears for TV and newspaper delivery via his not-so-careful courier.

[See also’s excellent Best Social Media Moments of Bin Laden’s Death]