I’m really of multiple minds about this. News broke over the weekend that Rupert Murdoch and possibly Steve Jobs are working on an App to make the Tablet/Slate form factor a delivery mechanism for news. Actually let’s rephrase that. They are working to make the form factor a delivery mechanism for paid news content.
Here’s my first problem with the scenario. The news is already out there to be consumed free on the web and if you’ve got a browser (there isn’t a Tablet/Slate without one) you can find just about anything. So, this means the content that gets created for what is supposedly called “The Daily” will have to be special enough to warrant the purchase price that is rumored to be $.99 a week.
According to reports, Murdoch is already gathering writers to work towards that direction. The content won’t be on the web or viewable outside the App, although some are predicting that it will be initially to help woo customers. And apparently this will feel much more like a conventional newspaper with each edition produced throughout the day and then published each morning. That’s my second problem. The free flowing web provides us with continuous updates and new news. That “feature” has been a factor in the decline of print journalism and content as consumers have gotten used to seeing the latest at any time without having to wait for their paper to arrive on their doorstep. In my view there’s money to be made in currency.
When the iPad (and all it would spawn) was released it was heralded as the savior of the declining news industry. On the one hand it can be argued that it is still too early to judge that. On the other, the content producers so far have largely failed to understand how to make a business model that is sustainable out of this. (See my first concern a couple of paragraphs earlier.) We might have a better understanding of this by mid-2011 after several big publications (New York Times, Washington Post) which already have Apps start charging for content that is now free. But keep in mind, others have already found that once the pay wall is erected circulation withers beyond the hope of any Viagra-like solution.
As I said at the beginning of this post, I’m of multiple minds on this. I’d love to see this kind of thing succeed and be profitable. But I fear that the same thinking that led to the decline in the news biz still rules in the boardrooms. That thinking led to the stripping of talent out of many newsrooms once the bean counters took over and choked the life out of many large and small publications. There are writers and content creators that I will gladly pay to read or consume their content. But there are fewer and fewer of them. I won’t pay for those that I don’t know and who haven’t earned a piece of my weekly paycheck. I certainly won’t pay for rehashed news that I can get anywhere. When I lived in Chicago I gladly plunked down the dough for both the Tribune and the Sun-Times each and every day. I did it to read certain columnists in the areas of the arts, sports, and politics. I didn’t do it to read the AP rehashes that increasingly replaced the news writers and were literally word for word in both papers. But the self-defeating cycle that many of these major media companies have been pursuing for some time now haven’t led to the creation of new creators worthy of my attention. And that’s another big part of the problem.
Like I said, I hope this finds a path to success. But I have my doubts.
What are your thoughts on this GBM Readers? What would make you pay for daily news content? Would you pay at all?