iPad newspaper closer to 'real thing'
By Mark Platte
The iPad, with all of its marvelous new features, is an exciting technological breakthrough. But for newspapers, the question is whether this device, or others that may succeed it, will hasten the death of printed news or keep it going.
Newspapers continue to struggle with the high fixed costs of producing and delivering tens of thousands of printed copies. Newspaper Web sites keep growing but haven't seen a significant enough shift of advertising dollars from print to online to sustain the cost of newsgathering. Classified ads have been siphoned away by free sites like Craigslist and others.
But there is reason to hope that the iPad could save newspaper companies if readers are still wedded to the experience of printed pages without having to worry about the ink and paper that it takes to create them. The New York Times application that accompanied the launch of the iPad — only three weeks in the making — shows that electronic editions of newspapers can be added, creating the visual appearance of a newspaper with the interactive advantages of the digital edition.
Reading a newspaper on an iPhone is not satisfying. But the iPad, with a nearly 10-inch screen, offers greater display for news stories and advertisements, making it closer to the real thing. In addition, there is the opportunity for accompanying video, photo slideshows and other features, as the Times app showed. Stories are updated continuously so the digital version is fresher than the newspaper that arrives at your doorstep each morning. There's also nothing to recycle.
With iPad prices starting at $499 for a basic model and $829 for the high-end, memory-laden wireless model, newspaper publishers might be inclined to think seriously of giving away a discount coupon for the device per long-term subscription, particularly if subsequent models are more affordable.
It is refreshing to think about a resurgence of newspaper content on e-readers, smart phones and Web sites and the potential for editors, publishers and online producers to provide that specialized information. With the advent of the iPad, Kindle, Skiff and others, there are more opportunities than ever to keep the newspaper experience going in nearly the same form as it appears today.
In the same way iTunes revolutionized the music industry with the ability to purchase music, the iPad's possibilities for a new digital newspaper that readers are willing to pay for and that advertisers want to be a part of could be the second act of an industry that badly needs to reinvent itself.