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WEB SCOUT

He's calling all print readers

February 25, 2009|DAVID SARNO

What do you want to know about the Web? Are you concerned about online privacy? Do you get what Twitter is, or what the big deal is about social networking? Are you wondering when they're going to invent a more eye-friendly way to read online? Or how the economy is affecting the Internet?

Just ask.

One reason rabid new media zealots scoff at newspapers is because they're no good at being interactive. The connection between readers and writers is one way: We write. You read.

They have a point. When it comes to the print newspaper, the gulf between those who produce the news and those who consume it is considerable. This paper doesn't (yet) arrive with a built-in wireless transmitter or keyboard, and none of its articles come with a "Comments" section for readers to discuss the story with one another or complement it with their own facts, opinions and criticisms. And, save for the few reader letters the paper publishes every day, the idea that newspaper readers can communicate with one another is nonexistent.

Online, this limitation evaporates. With little effort, readers can chime in on all kinds of articles, images and blog posts and discuss a story at length, independent of the author or the publication.

But a few weeks ago, I wrote a column about online "micropayments," which asked both print and online readers to weigh in on the idea of enacting a pay-as-you-read system for the newspaper's Web content. More than 100 people responded to the query, including dozens of print readers who sent thoughtful e-mails.

The result was an excellent conversation, with many considered viewpoints -- but it was a conversation that only I was able to read. I posted several of the e-mails in the online version of the piece, but many others sat in my e-mail in-box--quite a bit of unshared brain power.

In that spirit, I'd like to try a kind of open forum this week, the idea being to reproduce an online-style conversation -- but in print. Print readers, I've found, may have a different set of opinions and concerns than their online counterparts.

So just ask: Do you want to know why anonymity has become so prevalent on the Web? Or what the best political blogs are? How to do a live video chat with a family member across the country? Write in with anything you've been wondering about the Web, whether you're intrigued or skeptical. We'll answer the questions in my next column.

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david.sarno@latimes.com

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