Category Archives: Technology Blogs

Predicting if Murdoch’s iPad Daily will be the salvation of newspapers is a crapshoot

The board on which the news media plays is constantly moving and the only certainty might be that most newspapers are toast and that whatever we predict today will be history tomorrow.

So it’s curious that Rupert Murdoch — who’s in the process of purposefully eliminating his newspapers’ online audiences — is banking a chunk of NewsCorp’s future on a newspaper, albeit an electronic one.

NewsCorp and Apple are reportedly set to announce details of a jointly developed project — a daily newspaper built expressly for iPad-like devices. No print version, no Web version (but “The Daily,” as it’s being called, is likely to be heavily promoted, and its features teased, on both platforms). NewsCorp is said to have invested $30 million in the launch, and has assembled a staff of 100, including five-star journalists, so that The Daily will feature mostly original content (plus, presumably, at least some Fox video).

With each day’s Daily expected to cost 99 cents at the iTunes store, its sales scheme replicates the single-copy hawking of newspapers on newsstands. The product will publish once a day with just minor refreshing between “press runs” (a departure from the Web’s frenetic minute-by-minute updates).

Mediaphiles should have learned by now not to bet against Murdoch in any game, particularly the newspaper game for which Murdoch has a special fondness, and there are sound arguments on both sides.

In a Mashable post on Sunday, Ben Par asks, “Is Rupert Murdoch’s iPad-Only Newspaper the Future of Journalism?” His conclusion: “Murdoch Gets It”:

While I may not like some of Murdoch’s ideas, (see Murdoch: Take Your Google Ball and Go Home), I give credit where it’s due. Murdoch’s commitment to a digital future for journalism is commendable and forward-thinking. He realizes more than his competitors that the future of news isn’t in propping up print publications, but creating truly immersive digital experiences. He may very well be creating the template that brings other newspapers into a profitable digital age.

Meanwhile, David Carr in today’s NY Times is less enthusiastic:

If you want a good look at the past and future of the News Corporation, compare the Web site of The New York Post — surely one of the ugliest, least functional in the business — with its snappy new iPad app. It’s a charming product, one that well reflects and amplifies the spice and excesses of the mother brand.

The night-and-day bifurcation is understandable given that Mr. Murdoch has never entirely trusted the Web, with its terrible advertising economics and brutal fight for revenue from consumers.

If nothing else, the arrival of The Daily early next year will likely push me into the legions of iPad-totters (while I’m a reasonably early adopter, I try to wait at least until Apple’s first post-launch hardware revision before buying).

Meanwhile, I await speculation on The Daily’s prospective impact on the 2012 elections. FoxNews revolutionized television news and helped set the tone and slant of political discourse for all media; can we expect The Daily — itself a revolutionizing vehicle — to do any less?

• • •

Click here for additional reporting from The Guardian UK.


Old Media still doesn’t get it

There’s an excellent quick read on TECHi outlining “Five Things Old Media Still Don’t Get About the Web.”

If author Navneet Alang‘s bullet points below aren’t obvious to you by now, you must read his piece — the link is right hereimmediately.

1. People Never Wanted to Pay for the News
2. Paywalls Break the Web and Annoy Your Customers
3. The Web Needs New Solutions, Not Digital Replicas of Print
4. People Pirate Because They Get a Better Experience
5. Filesharing and Piracy Do Not Always Represent Lost Sales

After briefly fleshing out each of these points, Alang concludes:

Overall, what old media companies are struggling with is that the web is not simply another medium like print or TV – it is an entirely new one, and with it comes a whole new series of cultural assumptions. It’s not just that things are faster or more convenient – it’s that the web is fundamentally changing how cultures think about information, media and their exchange.

To simply rest on your laurels and try and replicate the models of the past will get you nowhere…

Stop trying to change how people have already learned to behave online (linking, sharing etc.) and start adapting to what your customers want.

Ideas for journalists, from SXSW in Austin

There were so many excellent panels running simultaneously at SXSW Interactive that Poynter’s Steve Myers suggests that “Austin hangover” be added to the Urban Dictionary.

He saw and heard as much as he could, then picked the brains of fellow journalists for more.

Go to his blog, posted this morning, to read what 15 journalists took home from South by Southwest.

Dan Roam's Disconnect

An eerily prescient 1994 vision of the 2010 iPad. When newspaper people calmly planned for a future their leaders didn’t have the courage to build.

Technology changes and, yes, shit does happen. But people with foresight, flexibility and courage do not have to be overwhelmed by it.

There was a time when visionaries in the news business understood what was going to happen and determined to be a part of it, to mold it to their industry’s benefit and to society’s.

I remember following the exciting ideas that were coming out of Knight Ridder’s lab in the 1990s; I was awed by their vision, and talked it up among my colleagues.

But industry leaders, more concerned with sustaining irrationally high quarterly profits than with building a viable future — and also lacking both vision and courage — dropped the ball. They shuttered the Knight Ridder lab, and eventually bankrupted Knight Ridder and the rest of the newspaper industry.

[CLARIFICATION: A commenter below correctly states that Knight Ridder itself did not declare bankruptcy. What happened was that Knight Ridder was saved from the brink by McClatchy in 2006, after which Knight Ridder’s remains helped bring McClatchy to the brink. Meanwhile, some Knight Ridders papers, after being quickly unloaded by McClatchy onto someone else’s shoulders, actually did go bankrupt.

[While hope springs eternal, the industry itself is largely “bankrupt” even if all its members are not in court and some are still making money; the sooner everyone accepts this reality as a fact, the sooner we can reorganize for the future.]

On this 13 minute video, listen to Roger Fidler, who led team at the Knight Ridder lab, as he says — and remember, this was made 16 years ago:

“There are many people who believe that newspapers are dinosaurs and that they’re going to become the roadkill on the information superhighway in the not-too-distant future. We believe exactly the opposite.”

Listen to Fidler and his colleagues — notice their calm self-assurance — and weep for what might have been.

Last May, when Amazon introduced its souped-up Kindle DX (with the ability to hold 3,500 newspaper pages), Bloomberg interviewed Fidler.

“There were people talking even then about the death of newspapers and there would be some electronic medium that would replace ink on paper,” he said.

From the Bloomberg report:

Fidler and his colleagues spent about three years trying to create an electronic tablet that could download newspapers and magazines. With the death of James Batten, Knight Ridder’s chairman at the time, the project fizzled and the 10-person lab was shut down, according to Fidler…

“When the lab was shut down, I think a lot of people took that to mean newspapers weren’t interested in the concept,” he said. “Technology companies and publishers focused their attention on the Web.”…

McClatchy Co. bought Knight Ridder, the publisher of the Miami Herald, in 2006. Fidler, 66, is now the program director for digital publishing at the Donald Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri in Columbia.

Peter Tira, a McClatchy spokesman in Sacramento, California, had no comment.

When Amazon’s Kindle DX was introduced last year, Fidller said, “I am thrilled this is finally happening. It’s vindication for all the years when people said this was a crazy idea and it wouldn’t work.”

Remember Fidler and the Knight Ridder lab when you buy your iPad on April 3.

—Ed Weintrob