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newspapers + iPad « Previous | |Next »
April 12, 2010

It may well be that printed newspapers will probably survive for a decade before being largely replaced by digital news and the printing presses are switched off. Mark Day in The Australian, who faithfully runs the Murdoch line that Google steals his precious content, says that the newspaper industry is holding its collective breath: Will Apple's new distribution system on the iPad platform be the game-changer save the industry?

Murdoch's answer is yes. His glimpse of the future is that the iPad (and other tablets) will help him in his attempt to reinvent the newspaper economy in the face of declining print readership and plummeting ad revenues. The Australian says that it will be at the forefront of these new media applications. They can see the advertising dollars emerging from an app store that channels money to those who make the content.

Day treads a little more more cautiously about Murdoch's attempt to roll back the existing "free media models" on the web through paying for access to his content. He says:

The big question yet to be answered is: how many people will buy a newspaper subscription application....and switch to daily electronic delivery in place of a dead tree and diesel truck delivery system? Little else will change: the content, story selection, analysis of what, why and how, context, the interpretation and opinion arising from this analysis, will all remain.

I dare say not many, especially when news and comment is free on the BBC and the ABC. Or Business Spectator. Murdoch may have the devices that must support to make sure his content is in the right access venues, but his content is not unique enough to persuade me to pay for access to it.

It is the book publishers will do rather well out of the iPad, with their multimedia books with sound files, pictures and maps.

Day's argument, in defence of Murdoch's proposed shift to paywalls, is that deliberately downsizing your audience is good. He says:

smaller is better. Publishers who choose to deny access to Google and rely on their own ability to engage readers through iPad-style apps will be able to build their own communities of people in the same way as they do now through print circulation.These communities will be identifiable by their names, addresses, ages, socio-economic status and interests and, as such, will be more valuable to advertisers than the billions of (mostly wasted) eyeballs Google accesses.

Murdoch is willing to take a significant hit on the digital readership of his newspapers in the belief that a smaller, more valuable audience lies over the paywall.

Will the content remain the same as Day assumes? The iPad is a portable, backlit, colour high-definition screen with decent battery life which is equally at home with music, video, text, graphics, photos and hyperlinks. This indicates that the form of the content is going to change, even though TV content is the biggest hole in the fabric Apple is weaving with its integrated content and user experience.

What if text-based newspaper sites become also-rans in the shift to pictures and videos and when internet news becomes even more of fundamentally visual medium? Internet TV via an ADSL 2+ broadband connection is just around the corner.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:29 AM | | Comments (18)


I think people like Mark Day and Andrew Bolt are in for a horrible surprise if they believe anyone buys newspapers just to read them. A Mark Day 'iPad-style app' will be purchased by about the same number of people as a talking giraffe clock app, once people understand they can get blogs for free, written by people just as qualified as Mark Day and totally independent to write what they think.

I'm amazed that Rupert would think the iPad is some kind of new hardware plateau. It's just the beginning of a whole raft of new devices that will integrate the internet and mobile phone technology. But then again he made the same mistake with MySpace, thinking it was the ultimate prize when in fact it was only the forerunner.

However if News Limited has made a corporate decision to break up the empire into niche markets that's all good. Anything that undermines its ability to dominate news and opinion in the community is to be applauded.

"What if text-based newspaper sites become also-rans in the shift to pictures and videos and when internet news becomes even more of fundamentally visual medium? Internet TV via an ADSL 2+ broadband connection is just around the corner."

Things are beginning to change and move this way. iiNet has just announced that it will offer FetchTV. for $30 a month. So Internet Protocol television (IPTV) finally comes to Australia.

IPTV doesn't mean watching a low-resolution QuickTime or Windows Media clip in a tiny web-window. Instead, IPTV is all about providing high-quality multi-channel television and streamed/downloadable video, all delivered via the web’s IP protocols and displayed on the TV set in your living room. It assumes a new television set having direct-to-the-internet broadband connections, and allows a TV to stream content such as IPTV direct from the internet without having to go through a computer. What we have in Australia is a TV capable of streaming television content from a PC to the TV.

FetchTV's foundation content partnerships in Australia include: Discovery Networks, National Geographic, MTV Networks, Fox International Channels, E! Entertainment Television, BBC World News, CNBC, ABC, Roadshow Entertainment, Disney Media Distribution, MGM, and Lionsgate.

That's competition for both Foxtel and Murdoch as the ability to pipe TV content over broadband has the potential to turn the broadcasting and newspaper world upside-down.

iiNet have the hardware in place, and the FetchTV service which allows consumers to watch streamed broadcasts on their television sets through a set top box--- is basically an add on. iiNet--and Internode, who are currently trialing the FetchTV service inhouse--- will be offering broadband, phone and TV from a single provider, and so the communication and entertainment services are included on one monthly bill. You stay with iiNet or Internode as ISP's because of the range of services they offer.

Who needs Murdoch's text-based Australian when broadcast television delivered over a broadband connection means that you can access the BBC World News and the ABC?

"Publishers...will be able to build their own communities of people"

An odd understanding of what the word 'community' means. Although I suppose he had to come up with something more friendly than 'ad targets'

Day means consumers sticking to a brand cos they just so love The Australian's conservative content that they cannot live without it. It's content affirms who they are--their identity--- in a lefty liberal world that is going green, too green. So they will pay for being ad targets.

Mark Day says that smaller is better. Smaller means that advertisers will be reaching a much smaller number of eyeballs. So a decline in circulation also means a decline in advertising revenues.

Nan I hope you are correct. It's a recipe for inevitable decline into deserved oblivion.

Murdoch wants to retain his political influence, so he will continue to subsidize the Times in the UK and The Australian in Australia.

The big picture is that most people in Australia have around 1.5mbit or can only get speeds lower than the minimum required for IPTV. So it is for a niche market--the broadband2+ customers

There are a lot of people very unhappy with both Foxtel's high cost and its program packages that contain many programmes consumers are not interested in. FetchTV may start to change things, if there is a continual and steady increase in market takeup. I guess it is a "putting things into place" for when the national broadband network is switched on.

These "closed gardens" are nothing new, AOL started life behind walls and that went poorly. Rupert has some big problems asking $ for something that is free with only a mouse click.

You're right. The initial strategy of newspapers to adapt to the digital age, has been to import the old media's ad revenue model to the web. This has failed.

Firstly, online display ads don't have enough impact on users to be attractive for advertisers, and therefore don't generate enough income for publishers to sustain the newsrooms. Secondly, this problem worsens as the print news industry generates less and less income, while people's attention shifts more and more online.

Subscriptions, the next strategy that is being pushed by News Corp, is also imported from the old print media. This paywall strategy will both reduce newspapers' visibility on the web--- on search engines and on social media – and it will also cut revenues from the ad model, due to a reduced audience.

Gary I haven't seen mentioned anywhere the fact that newspapers have lost the small business support group that they could once depend on. If this was happening years ago you would have had a small army of newsagents moving heaven and earth to protect their incomes, including lobbying governments for some kind of protection. These days however newsagents get most of their money from gambling and general merchandise - I suspect more than one would be very happy to dump newspapers altogether and sleep later in the morning.

Remember the days when people would make a living selling nothing but newspapers on street corners? Long gone. Newspapers really are becoming a remarkable commodity in hard copy: a product that nobody cares much about selling.

I'd be interested to know how News Ltd got its papers into supermarkets. Was it Coles' idea, or has News provided an inducement? Knowing the way supermarkets operate these days, I suspect the latter.

a quote from somewhere I cannot remember:

We've had a whole decade of people paying, believing that if they paid for the pipes they got the poetry free; [they think] 'I've paid my £15 or £20 for broadband so I get access to a library of content'. The iPad gives us an opportunity to retrain them. Content production is not free and good content is worth paying for.

Public libraries were free and so were art galleries. So were the poetry readings. Why cannot they be online and free.

agreed---we are seeing the end of the printed newspaper and the emergence of digital journalism. Apple and other tech companies will replace the newsagent on a similar commission basis as content is increasingly consumed on phones, Kindle and iPad-style devices rather than via websites on PCs and the majority of the circulation of a newspaper is online, rather than printed.

There is a place for The Australian---as a national newspaper. But why would I buy the Australia for overseas news when I can read the New York Times or The Guardian? The Australian is only of interest for me if its news and commentary are concerned with what is happening where I live in South Australia and Australia.

It isn't much use for South Australia, and the ABC handles all the news I need on a regional and national basis. What The Australian offers for Australian events is conservative commentary on news by old style hacks like Milne etc. That stuff should be free, as it is not worth paying for.

Murdoch needs to start experimenting and innovating more with his digital Australian rather than dishing up the old content in new iPad bottles. Maybe he could take a moment out from his anti-Google rants (Google are pirates, parasites or tech tapeworms) and attacks on the New York Times and the ABC to acquire a source of revenue---eg., -- that could be used to subsidize The Australian while it experiments with developing a worthwhile digital presence and journalism.

What they don't get yet is that journalism needs to reinvent itself; a journalism that is open to the web and is part of it and recognizes that many other people out there are doing what journalists are doing. I cannot see this happening at News Corp. It's too old school.

the crisis that journalism centers around the notion of a professional journalist class within our society.

They were endowed with both a steady income and with the responsibility to be critical analysts. What's happened is that critical analysis and investigative reporting have atrophied -- not that they are not existent but that journalism is not fulfilling that role anymore.

Ken said:

"I'm amazed that Rupert would think the iPad is some kind of new hardware plateau. It's just the beginning of a whole raft of new devices that will integrate the internet and mobile phone technology."

From the reviews I've read the iPad is a receiver. You can access content, but can't contribute. That's why Day's use of the term 'community' seems strange.

Following Nan's point about die hard fans of the Oz, the niche, and the numbers of people likely to pay for the privilege, Rupert's political influence will dwindle unless he can get his hands on some free to air broadcast media.

Further, you won't find people leaving their iPad on the bus or at cafes or dentist waiting rooms as they do newspapers, so secondary circulation will also fall.

the iPad has a virtual keyboard and mobile internet connection so it is not just a receiver or media consumption device or reader for reading all the books at Project Gutenberg. Important to me because I've given up buying books because they are too expensive.

The iPad is limited for creating stuff, as it is not a replacement for a MacBook. How limited is still unclear. I can do emails. Can I post images to Flickr? Can I do a blog post? Can I comment on the articles at The Drum? I'm presuming that the answer will be yes.

Jonathon Holmes at the ABC's The Drum highlights one problem for the newspapers using the iPad to distribute their particular package through a paid-for app:

this isn't just the difference between paying and not paying. It's the difference between deciding on your own news agenda, or buying someone else's... The Australian takes the business of 'creating' news - of deciding what stories to chase, and what to ignore, of what news to emphasise, and what emphasis to put on the news - very seriously. That's evident on every front page. But news editors in any mainstream medium - newspapers, radio, TV, even online - are in the business of selection. They decide what they think will most interest most readers each day.Yet the true beauty of the internet, for those who know best how to use it (and that emphatically doesn't include me), is that it allows news consumers to dispense with the services of gatekeepers like news editors.

We are making up our own news menus using Google's iGoogle desktop, rather than relying on a newspaper to do it for us. The ground rules are changing---nope, they've changed.