Time Shifting

Listen: Billy Pilgrim has become unstuck in time. I’m so used to listening to podcasts that I regularly try to pause or rewind the radio. It’s a little embarassing when I catch myself changing the radio station by mistake. It just seems natural that I should be able to back it up and replay something I missed or wanted to hear again. It doesn’t help that I listen to a lot of NPR podcasts, and that, when the radio’s actually on, it’s usually tuned to NPR.

A couple weeks ago, I was listening to a live call-in talk show, and thought, "if this were live, I’d call in and make a comment." Turns out, it was live. I’m totally used to consuming information (at least, audio information) on my own time.

Time shifiting isn’t new. In high school, I used to tape Letterman each night, and get up in the morning and watch it before school. That way, I could skip the commercials and stupid parts, still get a decent amount of sleep, and still be up-to-date on what happened on the show. But it wasn’t until recently that some people started using things like TiVo to do it with everything.

I wonder whether the news cycle pendulum is starting to swing the other day. When I was a kid, everyone watched the evening news. There was one newspaper edition per day. The news cycle was a whole day. If it happened after deadline, it’s tomorrow’s news. Over the years since then, the cycles have gotten shorter, to the point where it’s nearly instantaneous now. If a major story breaks, it’ll be on CNN (and CNN.COM) within a few minutes. Since that isn’t fast enough, it’ll also show up on the RSS aggregator on my desktop, to make sure I’m not out of the loop. For a long time, we’ve had a lot of news junkies. We have to be informed. We have to know what was going on in the world all the time.

Now, I’ve taken that immediate, up-to-the-minute news, and thrown it on an MP3 player. I’ll listen to it when I get a chance. I don’t have time right now. We’re back to the longer cycles. I think this kind of thing helps us focus less on what other people are up to, and more on what we’re doing.