iNewspaper: Can iPad Save the Newspaper Business

I like reading a newspaper. It is by far my favorite way to soak in the daily news. I have a subscription to the print edition of my favorite—The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). I also have a subscription to WSJ’s online versions for computer and iPhone.

Unfortunately, my personal and work lifestyles give me little time to enjoy the daily read of the print version. (Except the weekend edition.) As a result I read most of my WSJ news online. I like it like that. I can basically read the WSJ anytime, anywhere.

The Wall Street Journal is not the norm in this regard. Most newspapers across the country charge a subscription for their print editions and provide the same content online for free. Like me, more people today are getting their news online, which causes problems for newspaper publishers.

It’s no secret the print news media is in dire straights. Across the board newspapers and magazines are cutting staffs, printing smaller and lighter editions and struggling to find new revenue sources from dwindling subscription fees and advertising—not to mention the high costs associated with printing and distribution. Many just shut their doors.

In a Sept. 2009 WSJ column, Peter R. Kann pointed out, “It’s now argued that it is too late for publishers to reverse course. Online edition customers have had a decade and more to enjoy the free news publishers are providing and, as in any business, it is far harder to begin charging once customers have been conditioned to expect something for nothing. So it is late in the day for the industry to change and doing so would be risky and painful.”

Personally, I think it’s fine for newspapers to charge for their online content. Why not? The content is no less valuable online than in print.

The announcement of the Apple iPad has the potential of providing the means for the newspaper business to experience a rebirth of sorts. Unlike any other technology, iPhone and smartphones included, the iPad has the potential to do two important things: replace print media as we have known it, and give back to the consumer the experience of holding and reading the news anywhere they want.

Smartphones do allow you to read the news on the go, but the experience is academic at best. Most online publications provide a list of their headlines you can click on to read the main article—hardly the experience of reading a newspaper. It gets a little better sitting in front of your computer or notebook. Publishers can get a little more creative with their designs and content choices, but you’re still stuck sitting at the computer or placing a heavy notebook on your lap.

The new technology will potentially allow newspapers to design their news layouts specifically for the iPad, similar to the way they have always laid out newspapers. The consumer in turn can “read the paper” anywhere they want, anytime they want. Newspapers could in essence merge their print content with their online content into a new newspaper format. As before they can receive both subscription and advertising revenue.

This is in fact appears to be what’s happening now. It was reported Apple talked with New York Times, Condé Nast Publications, HarperCollins Publishers and News Corp. regarding content for the tablet.

It’s hard to say for sure how this will all shake out. For one thing, if everyone begins charging subscription fees for online content it will become more difficult to add shared content through links to other sources associated with the article.

The potential to revive the newspaper business along with the experience consumers have reading a paper can be found in this promising new technology. It combines the best of both the traditional print newspaper experience with the ease and convenience of online content.

Watch for an update to this article after the iPad is released. We will evaluate where we think it is going—or not going.

Author: A. Cory Maloy |