Tag Archives: Newspapers

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.

Old media’s obituary

Here’s an interesting conversation starter for all of us in the media and entertainment business. Gary Vaynerchuk, author of Crush It! gives a primer on the major technology, business, and cultural shifts of the last three years. While much of what he posits is still up for debate, he frames the discussion succinctly and offers compelling arguments for his point of view. Some his numbers might be up for debate, but his overall thesis is sound.

It’s a good watch. Gary’s a very compelling speaker.

Final nail in my newspaper’s coffin

I canceled my newspaper subscription today. I’ve subscribed to the Boston Globe for over 17 years without interruption. The role the newspaper plays in my life has changed in some significant ways. For example, I have no idea when the paper stopped publishing stock quotes. Sometime in the late 1990s I began consuming that data online. Virtually the same story applies to out of town sports scores, election results, and weather. In fact, the newspaper is no longer a significant source of news. My typical 15 minutes in the morning with the paper would be a scan of the Op-Ed page, the obituaries, sports (for background pieces on the local teams), and the puzzles. The bulk of that 15 minutes would be spent on the crossword.

Let’s do the math. A lot’s been said about the deteriorating business model of print journalism, but let’s take a look at the value proposition made to the consumer. In my case, with the exception of the crossword, I can get everything online and I get it fresher with access to voices from all over the globe. (Online crosswords don’t do it for me, but some of the Facebook word games are downright addictive and make a fine substitute.) I’m down from spending about 30 minutes with the daily paper a decade ago to 15 minutes. Home delivery costs approximately $40/month. That’s not much, but it’s much more than what I pay for the sports package or the movie package on cable, and I spend far more time with Curb Your Enthusiasm and Sports Center. Netflix with Roku and PlayStation 3 access is only $20/month. Time spent and value received from broadband and 3G services are similar.

There’s not much news here. Every media consumer gets the math, and many took action long before me. Here’s the thing… I’m old-fashioned. I like reading the paper with my morning coffee and Corn Flakes. While many consider reading at the morning table rude, it’s somewhat more sociable than hunkering down behind a laptop screen, and you can share the paper much more easily than a laptop.

The newspapers counter that all that “free” content on the Web costs money to produce, and much of it is the product of the print team’s labors. Kill the newspaper and there’s no free online content. Agreed. So here’s my proposal. Rather than sell individual subscriptions to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post, I would be happy to pay single monthly fee for all the news I consume online. That fee is shared proportionally among all the publishers whose sites I regularly visit. This could be added to my broadband bill or charged separately. The news outlets already know how much I’m willing to pay for decent journalism.

So why did I take action today? I’d like to say that something like anticipation of Apple’s tablet announcement was the spur. Or maybe the latest rev of the Kindle caught my eye. But it’s none of those. The driver delivering the paper has decided he no longer wants to deliver the paper to my door. He just tosses it on the driveway. Winters are cold here in New England, and I like my neighbors just enough not to subject them to the daily sight of me marching out for the paper in my PJs. It turns out that $40/month is exactly my limit – remove just one more feature from the offering and I’m gone. How many other newspaper subscribers are at that point?

Maybe now I’ll get through the Economist and the New Yorker every week while waiting on my tablet.

Media consolidation as a fix?

Traditional media is in trouble. Newspapers have been struggling for sometime, having failed to acknowledge and then address the threat of the Internet — more accurately, the threat of Criagslist. Broadcasters are hurting because their top advertisers, the automobile and financial services sectors are hurting.

It’s in no one’s best interests to see newspapers disappear, and local news cut back. That is a given, and there are no quick fixes. Brian Lowry proposes an interesting, and admittedly partial solution in Variety. I’m usually reticent about relaxing the rules for this generation’s robber barons, but some careful relaxation of the ownership rules can go a ways to helping traditional media get back on its feet without completely killling local news gathering. The alternatives Lowry cites are far worse than the threat of increased consolidation.

Without some kind of action, more broadcasters, newspapers and magazines are going to die off. Local news coverage — the essence of public service, however quaint and dated that might sound — has already been seriously compromised, as TV and print cut back on newsgathering resources. Other creative methods to pare costs have assumed almost Orwellian dimensions, from outsourcing editing functions to Mumbai (there’s nothing quite like having copy editors 8,000 miles away from the city council meeting) to “citizen journalism,” often little more than code for stations that lack the manpower to cover their communities tapping amateur video to fill the void.

It’s a well thought out, well presented piece. Read it in its entirety if you have a chance.

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