The countdown clocks are winding down. The iPad is almost here. THE big question: Can news companies rise to this occasion, taking advantage of the new platform that will plainly be popular with audiences trained by the iPhone, their appetites whetted. The iPad, and its clones to come, offer the news industry a do-over. Can they apply all they’ve learned – from failure and success – with this new opportunity? Nine questions as we count down, part one of a three-part Newsonomics tablet series.
1. Is it coincidental that the iPad is a launching in The Year of Paid Content experimentation? Yes, it is. Go back to January, 2009, to the very depth of the dark recession (Newspaper Association of America, January, 2009, San Diego). Leading publishers including Rupert Murdoch and Dean Singleton were laying down the new conventional wisdom that advertising would no longer be the strong support to news publishing it long has been. They challenged Google directly and the movement toward “paid content” started gaining steam. Then, through the year, Journalism Online’s Steve Brill and Gordon Crovitz went out on the road, building toward testing what is now known as Press+. Kindles provided nice new revenue streams to a few publishers, the Sony Reader emerged and then….Apple Mania was loosed. Now the two – the news industry impact of the iPad launch and “paid content” – will converge in unknowable ways. We may see reverse engineering of a sort, with iPad paid experimentation re-opening publishers’ ideas of what’s possible both with product innovation and business model.
2. Will the iPad also launch a new digital “circulation” business model? Apple is going to pay a 30% sales share to news companies, for sales of their Apps, which could be single copies (mostly in the case of magazines), one-time-sale apps allowing news access, and subscriptions to newspapers. That 30/70 is the inverse of Amazon’s standard Kindle deal, and one far more palatable to news companies. It almost seems fair.
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