I bet a lot of people bought a newspaper this morning. Even those who haven’t paid for a paper version of the news in years (if ever). [Update: evidence]

Buying and putting away a print version of the headline from a major event is traditionally how many have personally preserved a piece of history.

So how does that happen in a digital age, one in which dead-tree publications are disappearing or cutting back?

I suppose you could take a screen shot of your favorite news outlet’s web site. Or wait to get the commemorative issue of Time that’s undoubtably coming soon.

But one page (digital or otherwise) really doesn’t capture the memory anymore. Neither does a single edition of a daily newspaper.

For me, and I suspect others who live in the online echo chamber, the story of this election was made of lots of little bits that went beyond what was recorded in the traditional news media.

Like Twitter discussions during debates. Multiple blog posts written by amateur and professional observers alike. Conversations in the comments sections of those blogs. Sharing YouTube videos created by non-professionals with creative ideas.

I hope that someone with far more resources than I have (Internet Archive? Library of Congress?) was capturing a large chunk of the online stream during the past two years.

The many, many digital pieces flowing on the net have now become as much a part of the archive of history as the products of relatively few print and broadcast media outlets were for the previous century.

Of course, not everything uploaded to the web is worth keeping (although some of David Jakes’ Twitter rants are priceless :-).

However, all those small elements added up to a larger story, one that was largely ignored or missed by the high profile media outlets.

To me, it’s pretty clear that this was the first US national election in which various online communities had a major, perhaps a decisive, impact on the outcome.

In the past we might say that it will be left to historians to decide if that statement is valid and what the impact was.

I’m not so sure the extremely impatient world of the web will stand still waiting for their judgement.