Of all the items I read over the holidays, a blog post from Bradford Cross called Why the iPad is Destroying the Future of Journalism was by far the best. It's a must read for everyone involved in any form of publishing. Here are some of my favorite excerpts (italics) and with a few comments of my own mixed in:
The iPad has been dubbed a revolutionary device and the journalism industry has raced to embrace it. But their embrace is more of a desperate final grasp at the past.
Yes! That's exactly why I've tried out at least 4 or 5 different magazines on it but have yet to subscribe to a single one. Wired is my favorite example. I spent $4.99 on the first iPad issue and never went back for more. Even though they lowered the price, why should I buy the iPad version when I get the print one for $10 a year? There's nothing new and exciting enough to get me to switch.
Publishers want to have their own branded channel - whether in their own app, or in some meta-app. They are fighting back against syndicating their content on the web and they want you to come to their sites and pay. Nobody gets their content from only one source; this is the Internet. Nobody is going to pick their favorite newspaper or magazine and just stick to their app.
This is where we in the publishing industry need to think more about getting our content to where readers already are and not expect them to always come to us (or grab our latest app).
Nobody wants an app for each content source. The parallels to RSS are striking.
This reminds me of a conversation I was part of at a recent conference. One person in the session mentioned that he couldn't recall the last time he opened his RSS reader. Another agreed, saying she felt too guilty seeing the new tally of unread items in it. How true. I also can't tell you the last time I looked at my RSS reader, but I certainly don't like the idea of individual apps for every type of content I'm interested in.
Since most non-direct traffic for news now is coming from search, Facebook turns out to be the largest subscription source of news content on the Internet.
Even though Bradford's post is all about the news industry, I believe there are parallels to book publishing here as well. See this earlier post on publishing in the social world for more info.
The success of search, social, and design seem to indicate that the future of news products need Google-level relevance, Facebook-level social, and Apple-level design.
What a terrific way to state it. And unlike the famous words of Meatloaf, two out of those three simply isn't good enough.
If journalism is going to rediscover a model that works, it has to figure out how to integrate with the social web. What should I be able to do with that Economist article? Should I be able to share it à la carte so I can discuss it with the people I want? Should I be able to share it within my network? Should I be able to share it publicly?
I think the answers should be yes, yes and yes. Btw, I read this article using the Instapaper app on my iPad. Doing so helped me realize social network functionality that need to be added to Instapaper as well -- see my latest iPadHound post for more info.