Will the Apple iPad save newspapers?

January 27th, 2010

It’s a little early to say any one gadget will save anything, but Apple’s new gadget, the iPad, at least makes that a serious question. The publishing industry has to be cautiously optimistic. Here’s why:

  • It is built for displaying publishers’ content in an attractive way. The New York Times got a star demo at Steve Jobs’ big announcement, and the newspaper actually looks like an easy-to-read digital copy of a print newspaper. Based on the demo of the Times, it feels more like a print edition than any previous digital attempt at reproducing a newspaper. It has a nearly 10-inch screen, allows for intuitive navigation between newspaper sections and yet still takes advantage of the bells and whistles of the Web such as video, resizing and changing fonts, digital breaking news alerts, etc.

  • It will start at $499, not the $999 many were predicting. For people who want a 3G wireless experience, Apple did make it unlocked, which means you won’t have to only use AT&T the way iPhone users do. This gadget will be in a lot of hands quickly, and I think it will be an Amazon Kindle-killer.
  • The iPad is compatible with all the apps already in the iTunes store, including any iPhone apps that publishers already built. The experience is good enough to charge for subscriptions (like e-editions on the Kindle) yet high-quality enough to display more traditional print display advertisements. To fully take advantage of the new technology, publishers need to do more than just upsize their iPhone apps, but at least there’s an easy way to already be in the space.
  • Apple also announced the iBooks book store to allow for easy reading (and buying) on an iPad. iBooks is Apple’s answer to the Kindle. People will get in the habit of paying for content they read. That can only be good for the news industry.
  • It supposedly has a 10-hour battery life, hours better than most laptops. Combine its good battery life with its small size (half-inch thick and 1.5 pounds), and you have something that people will carry with them just about anywhere.

Some of the things I like about the iPad might also hinder it. Is the device too big? It’s certainly not going to fit in anyone’s pocket. Jobs was seen typing on it while it was resting in his lap. That doesn’t seem very ergonomic. Does it do too much? Will people spend their time on the iPad tweeting, watching YouTube videos and playing games, completely ignoring the news industry? Will publishers take advantage of all that can be done on a better processor and bigger screen that iPad offers over the iPhone or be content just letting the iPhone apps be upsized? If so, will those apps be successful or will people want more?

Several other tablets have been released, and more will come. This surely will become the year of the tablet. Having the iTunes apparatus in place — and Apple’s cachet from successes with the iPod and iPhone — could make the iPad the best opportunity since print for a publisher.

Will this save newspapers? Probably not on its own, but that’s OK – it’s a step in the right direction.

- Robert Quigley

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Entry Filed under: future of media

  • Anonymous

    kindle == not much.rnrnAmazon’s book store, service, wireless etc. == a lot.rnrnIt’s not enough to be a “kindle killer”. You have to be an Amazon killer. (Although, I doubt this screen is as readable as eInk and doubt it’s even capable of beating kindle, let alone Amazon).

  • http://lthanlon.tumblr.com lthanlon

    Yes, I think iPad will save newspapers. What we have here is essentially The Daily Prophet from Harry Potter.

  • http://lavrusik.com lavrusik

    Agreed. It is a step in the right direction. It's hard to know what's going to happen until this thing gets to the market. With the NYTimes demo, it's clear Apple wants to work with media companies on this, which has some great potential. Saving, probably not.

  • http://oldmedianewtricks.com/ Robert Quigley

    Maybe so, though I think iTunes could compete with Amazon pretty well… especially once given some time.

  • http://oldmedianewtricks.com/ Robert Quigley

    Thanks for the comment. I wonder what the NYT will charge for its iPad-specific app, if anything.

  • Pingback: Will the iPad save the Newspapers and Magazines? « excapite

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  • http://www.twitter.com/Cavan Cavan Reagan Reichmann

    It is the first device that's made me want to pay for online news content (and eBooks, for that matter). I'm not sure if I really would, but the idea is appealing.

    It does present some problems — not being able to share sections with others in your household, or stash the main news section in your bag to bring to work, etc., though perhaps syncing stories to read later on your iPhone would solve those.

  • http://www.icomtablet.net/ Apple_iPad_Tablet

    This is the great blog, I'm reading them for a while, thanks for the new posts!

  • Aaron

    It is TOTALLY dependent on being able to convert newspaper formatting to this tool. PDF won't do it…and InDesign does not translate directly to ePub (the open format used for the iPad)…

    The company that comes up with the translation tool will make a LOT of money.


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