Rebirth of the newspaper?

Rupert “I bought MySpace just in time for it to tank” Murdoch didn’t seem to get the new media thing… until today. The Daily, the first iPad-only newspaper launched to great fanfare. At first blush Steve Jobs and Rupert Murdoch make Felix and Oscar look like identical twins, but they certainly have at least one thing in common. They know how to passionately engage millions of people at a time and make a lot of money doing so.

If the Web has been listed as the cause of death for numerous dailies and magazines, the App might be named godfather of the reborn e-pubs. While people remain largely unwilling to pay for content on viewed on the PC, the iPad and Kindle prove they are willing to pay for content on the tablet. I call it the corn flakes effect. I always paid a few bucks a week to read the morning paper at the breakfast table. I’d pay a few more bucks a month for magazines to read in bed. And I’d overpay at the airport for virtually anything to read on an airplane so I wouldn’t be stuck watching some neutered cut down version of a movie that tanked at the box office.

CNN covered the announcement nicely, acknowledging that as the iPad’s share of eyeball expanded into television’s territory.

Another report last month from ReadItLater, a web service that follows web trends, found that the time spent reading on the iPad is even crossing into primetime TV hours.

It reported that maximum iPad text consumption occurs from 7pm to 11pm, a slot traditionally allocated to reclining on the couch and watching TV.

Likely CNN is assuming it’s at the expense of Two and a Half Men, not Anderson Cooper. Even the Times gushed about the Daily’s user experience… in its own catty way.

The Daily, according to people who have seen it, is aesthetically — if not intellectually — compelling, incorporating sound, sight and motion in new ways.

“It’s got an amazing look and feel,” said Mike Vorhaus, the president of the media consulting firm Magid Advisors, who had been shown The Daily in advance and who compared it to a glossy magazine.

Of course CNN was able to dig up the requisite Luddite for its coverage.

“While anything that Rupert Murdoch and Steve Jobs do in collaboration is bound to be unique, we have to be mindful of the fact that the tablet is just in its infancy stage — it’s like the early days of the printed press,” said Barry McIlheney, chief executive of the UK based Professional Publishers Association.

He believes that newspapers are easy to replace because their format is adaptable to the screen but reading longer passages of texts with images are not.

Apparently Mr. McIlheney hasn’t yet caught the Economist on the iPad. The experience of reading it on the iPad is more pleasant than on paper, and all the additional online content is only a click or two away.

Before we start encouraging kids to enroll in journalism school again, we should temper our optimism for the future of the old fish wrapper. Just this week Apple announced it’s clamping down on content sellers who evade the App Store and Apple’s 30% vig. This whole thing could lose steam quickly If Apple and the content creators can’t arrive at a win-win. The iPod always worked with non-iTunes content, in a competing format no less. If Apple blocks Amazon, Sony, Conde Nast, and others from getting their content onto the iPad, the whole platform will suffer.

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