Apple’s iPad is not the answer for a dying print industry

By: Jorge Valens/Columnist
Media professionals have heralded the iPad as the next step in the print journalism’s business model. But, in an effort to monetize news, newspapers and media outlets are killing the Internet.
The iPad, though average in design, has loads of potential as a content consumption device. However, most of the iPad reviews share one common point: It will not save print journalism.
Apple’s philosophy for content distribution is one that has made a lot of industries rich, such as music, but I don’t think that this particular model is one that will benefit old media in the same way.
“What we’re seeing is a desperate wish — the last gasp of desperation,” said Jeff Jarvis, *Buzzmachine.com* writer and professor at City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism, in an interview with the non-newspaper *Huffington Post*.
“Editors, publishers and advertisers want to regain control of the media experience that the Internet took away from them. In their minds, this iPad is the magic pill that will make all of this Internet crap go away. Surely, it won’t,” Jarvis said.
Newspapers like *The Wall Street Journal* and *The New York Times* are clinging to the iPad like DiCaprio holding on to the door at the end of *Titanic*; designing apps and setting up subscription plans. But the iPad is like Kate Winslet, she loves you, sure – but she’ll let you drown.
The app interface for consuming content is such a step back from the robustness of a Web site. It’s narrow and it builds walls around the Internet. The full-fledged Web site is the best because it offers so much more than the app and it can be anything and everything.
“Apps are more closed, contained, controlling. That, again, is why media companies like them,” Jarvis said on Buzzmachine.
Apps run contrary to the flow of things on the Internet and allow providers a lot more control over you, the user.
What kind of control, you ask? Well, if you are a big fan of *The Wall Street Journal*, get ready to pay a full $5 more than the print subscription to get the journal on your iPad.
I’ve seen the WSJ on the iPad and I am telling you right now, it’s not worth $5 a month extra. Subscribe to the print version and invest the $5 you save on some waterless hand sanitizer for the ink stains.
News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch, who owns the WSJ, complains about Google everyday, saying that they are stealing his content and he is going to pull out of Google. *BoingBoing.net*’s co-editor and journalist, Cory Doctrow, puts it best.
“Rupert Murdoch can rattle his saber all he likes about taking his content out of Google, but I say do it, Rupert. We’ll miss your fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the Web so little that we’ll hardly notice it, and we’ll have no trouble finding material to fill the void.”
Look, you are talking to a guy who loves print journalism. I hope and pray nightly to any deity that is willing to listen that I am wrong.
But, a $500 to $800 device with overpriced apps, the store average being $4.99, cannot compete with the openness and the limitless potential of a Web page.
Is there a new, “perfect” business model for old media that makes everyone happy? There could be. Instead of dedicating resources to adapt the Internet to old methods of control, they should dedicate the time to see how print media can adapt to the Internet.
In the end, I am stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand I want the newspaper industry to excel, to do what it has to do to survive – a lot of people depend on it. On the other, the current paradigm being employed by the media seeks to limit the openness of the Internet, imposing its control over something that should be without control.
*Fistfuls of Tech is a weekly tech column. Look for it every Friday.*

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