back to article Apple's Tablet won't save Big Dumb Media

There are many harmless and very entertaining pages on the internet devoted to speculative history, some of which are devoted to Moses' Ark of the Covenant. It was apparently some kind of electrical apparatus. Possibly involving fusion. It performed magic. It transformed the destiny of people who used it wisely. Now I doubt if …


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  1. cosmo the enlightened

    Sedgeway anyone

    This will not be epoch defining.

    .. nuff said ..

  2. Charlie Stross

    Wot, no advertising?

    This analysis is faulty because it relies on the assumption that big media -- newspapers -- are about news. They're not, they're about advertising sales. The internet (and google) are eating their lunch, but they can't dig their way back into profitability simply by hiring more journalists and going back to pavement-pounding, because that wasn't where they made their money in the first place.

    80% of the revenue of newsstand publications comes from the advertising department; the readers are just there to deliver ABC headline figures to the ad salesfolk so they can squeeze more money from the clients. <em>This</em> is the bind they're in; as advertising spend goes online, there's less left over for trad media, so less money to pay for those (loss-leading) journalists.

    1. Sam Tana

      Advertisers follow readers

      @Charlie Stross

      There's plenty of advertising money out there, and if you don't have the costs associated with traditional media (printing, transport, distribution etc) it has the potential to make a packet. But that money will only go to sites that are well read, and for them to be well read they have to be well written with lots of relevant news.

      Mine's the one with a pocket big enough for the iTablet...

    2. Gulfie

      Not to disagree with you but...

      As an increasingly infrequent buyer of newspapers (pretty much just Private Eye these days) I don't buy them for the adverts. I buy them for the NEWS in whatever form it takes. Find me a newspaper where the majority of the people who pay for it in one way or another say they do so for the adverts. You won't find one.

      I'm happy to accept the financial model you've laid out, but with the quality of journalism dropping the newspapers are entering a terminal spiral of their own making. Poor content leads to a drop in readership, which leads to a drop in both direct and indirect revenue, in turn leading to further cutbacks on the news desks, so quality drops further, and so on.

      As has been written here before, the key is to build and maintain a team of people who are capable of (and I hate to put it this way) good old-fashioned investigative journalism. Give people high quality hard news and they will pay for it. I'm not interested in articles cobbled together from Wikipedia, Google and a few press releases, and without good news you won't get people buying the paper or visiting the web site, and your advertising revenue will continue to dry up.

      I think some proprietors are too interested in their own political agendas, pursued and promoted through their media empires, to really understand and address the issues. The Times is talking about charging for some accessm but if the quality isn't there, people won't pay. Epic Fail all round.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice piece, Andrew

    one thing that it's prompted me to consider is that the online tech press isn't really making that much of a noise about exactly what Apple are planning for this alleged device to actually do, sticking instead to whether or not it actually exists, what components it's likely to contain, and what it might look like, because, quite simply, it's just another lump of plastic, glass and metal that talks to the Internet and does some stuff. The back end is all-important here, and nobody's got the foggiest what Jobs is up to: hence all the room for other people to hang their aspirations, however misplaced.

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled flamewar.

  4. ratfox Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Orlowski allowing comments? I must post one!

    I don't have anything to say, actually. But I'm sure the fanboys will.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Orlowski Articles

      This is at least the second one of his recently that has allowed comments.

      Perhaps the people at El Reg have actually listened to the comments?

      We shall never know like 'Who is the Stig' (see other El Reg article today)

  5. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

    Ad spend

    @Charlie - "as advertising spend goes online, there's less left over for trad media"

    Getting half a million people to pay a pound a day, every day, gives you quite a nice income. Putting everything online gives us no reason to spend a pound a day. So they're accelerating the decline. And as we've said many times, the general audience on the web isn't worth much to an advertiser.

    See Lettice on Jarvis here -

    The reason you find the analysis faulty is because you have a simplified view of the world. The internet is not going away, and it is not "killing newspapers". The newspapers are committing suicide.

    @anon: I think it's because we've seen so many slates and tablets fail. Even if it's great, it's still only a great gadget. It isn't going to save entire business sectors.

    @ratfox - I always aim to please.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Dead Vulture


      LOL @ Andrew saying Charlie Stross has a simplified view of the world

    2. Iggle Piggle

      Of course the internet is killing the newspapers

      I'm sure it is not it is no more intentional than the decline of the horse after the introduction of the car or the reluctance of most people to pen to paper when e-mail is so much more immediate and effective.

      But to imply that newspapers have only themselves to blame really does not make sense. I have never managed to glean so much news as I do now and that is because I simply open my browser and there are days stories, in the past I would have required a subscription and the chances are that it would arrive after leaving for work and the news would already be old before I've read it. There is simply no way that the newspapers can overcome the limitations that the format of their media imposes.

      Now as the rot sets in well something has to give and it seems that quality is the first to go. But, let's face it, they are competing with bloggers and the like, who would ever have thought that quality was an issue. There may follow a period when the readership notices that the quality has declined. Others will regret that readers letters take at least a day to appear and will have noticed that forums and comment pages are more or less instant. Some, like myself, will not have the time to spare to read a paper from cover to cover and will therefore not bother with paying. As the numbers decline so will the adverts until phut the entire thing vaporises.

      Of course there is room for online ad free, timely, and yet paid for news. Reuters and Bloomberg, just to name two, have known this for a long time. There are also people still trying to give away papers, they can be seen outside most railway stations each morning. The fact that they have not yet given up means there is some money coming from somewhere. And there are the endless piles of fire lighters, sorry local newspapers, that seem to arrive daily and quite uninvited. So someone is managing to convince people that it is worth advertising with them.

      In the past I worked for a big company that produces a weighty and almost exclusively yellow publication. It lists all the local businesses and usually gets put in a dusty cupboard until it is ultimately replaced by the next one a year later. Even when working there I never used it and they too were moaning about Google. They are doing their best to become all trendy and on-line but I believe Google is also trying to get into the directory industry and that will hammer home that last nail.

    3. Ted Treen

      The interwebs...

      ...will not kill newspapers.

      Many years ago, it was said that the wireless would kill newspapers.

      Not-quite-so-many years ago it was said that television would kill newspapers.

      Neither did.

      However, as to whether newspapers are mostly heading over the cliff lemming-style, that's a different question.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Yeah, whatever.

    Whatever it is, Apple will sell billions of 'em. And bitter idiots will nitpick and complain out of sheer jealousy and then go back to their crappy netbooks or Windoze spazphones and be laughed at.

    Plus ca change...

    1. Morpho Devilpepper
      Jobs Horns

      Keep thinking that, why don't you

      "Sheer jealousy" you say. Yeah, I'm a bit jealous...I sure wish I had more money than sense to spend on a faddish device with limited customizability and little-to-no self-repair options. I wish I could afford to drag around a heavy, £2,000 version of a £750 PC purely for fashion purposes.

      I'm sure the Mercedes and BMW drivers laugh at all the Toyota drivers, too. They laugh while paying ten times as much in repair/maintenance fees for a vehicle that will spend twice as much time in the garage as on the road.

      1. Gulfie


        What else is there to say?!

      2. Craig Graham 2

        BMW drivers *are* laughing at Toyota drivers... Toyota recalled 2.3 million cars in the US last week, and halted production of it's cars in the US today due to safety issues....

  7. Jon Green
    Thumb Up

    Oh, Andrew...

    ...what a brilliantly-written piece! Had me laughing out loud several times, and yet it's all so tragically true.


  8. Richard Howell
    Thumb Up

    Good analysis

    Have to confess I agree with pretty much everything Andrew has had to say, even if publishers don't benefit from the full cover price - newsagents and wholesalers also take their slice.

  9. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    Traditional media is its own problem

    Yes, you can make money by selling high-quality focused journalistic content online (Politico, for example) but most newspapers and magazines have already "branded" themselves as being rather unfriendly to the online audience, because they want to save the physical infrastructure (big offices and printing plants) and unfocused journalistic teams that cover everything from fashion to local business to national politics.

    At the same time, in the U.S. you see major traditional media outlets suffering from self-inflicted damage to their journalistic credentials through sloppy reporting or being too cozy with corporate, political or monied interests. This makes them vulnerable to competition from bloggers, who traditional media likes to attack as being biased and not excercising good journalism, when major media has significant and public problems in these areas as well.

  10. Fazal Majid

    Charlie has a novel to finish

    Studies have shown that online newspaper circulation falls after a newspaper discontinues its print edition. People were literally paying for the paper, not the actual content in it. Then again, most newspapers dumbed down their content and reduced their own coverage to reprint cheaper wire stories instead. This coincides with the transformation of journalism from scrappy, somewhat disreputable trade to white-collar, respectable profession, i.e. tame and boring. The future of media is as a loss leader for other products or instruments of political pressure for special interests. They will survive in some form, but not as independent businesses.

    1. Gulfie

      Not so.

      There IS a place for good quality NEWS that is properly investigated from a neutral standpoint. If there is a problem with that, it is that a large proportion of the population is too interested in celebrity, gossip and schadenfreude to have any concern about the quality of what they are reading.

      I give you Metro as the perfect example of this. The 'news' content is produced for a very, very low cost and has almost zero value.

  11. Leo Maxwell

    Pound a day?

    Is that how much newspapers cost these days?

    The last time I looked at one it was given to me free on a channel ferry.

    After I had discarded the advertising, the copy that was actually lifestyle advertising posing as reporting, the braying little Britain opinion. and the sport section (also mainly advertising for the corporate sponsor) I was left with 3 small articles of moderate interest from half a pound of Sunday pulp.

    Remove the cost of distribution and physical production, markup for the newsagent and distributor, and how much is left from the pound?

    I haven't read them for years,and please note, nor do any but a small minority of the population.

    More people illegally download music than read the newspapers (if you believe the newspapers, that is).

    1. Blitz


      As of 2008 21million Brits read a daily publication in print each day.

      1 in 3 of us is hardly a 'small minority.

      Newspapers may be committing suicide but they're in little danger of being eclipsed by the www.

      Move along please.

  12. John Savard Silver badge


    The fact that the Internet is so useful and convenient that lots of people will turn there first for everything they can get there, rather than turning on the telly or stopping in at a store to buy the daily newspaper is why the newspapers are getting their foot in the door first with free, and waiting until they either find a business model or go bankrupt, whichever comes first.

    They're working on the assumption that if they didn't give away the crown jewels on the web, somebody else would come in with a second-rate web newspaper - and that would kill them just as dead. So they're warding off competition while frantically looking for a business model.

    That's the "gun" they see pointed at their heads.

  13. R Cox

    won't buy stuff twice

    I don't have a kindle because I don't need to subscribe to a newpaper that I already pay for through ads. Nor do I need a kindle version of a magazine that I already get in physical form. Nor do I want to hear how $9.99 for an e-book is an unsustainable low price when the hardback is sold for $12.99. For years we were told how expensive it was to print and distribute a book, now we are told that such costs are not even $3.

    Apple is not going save print anymore than it saved music. What it can do is provide another way to monetize content.

  14. Lars Silver badge

    I suppose

    That the paper in newspaper will disappear and I find if completely inevitable.

    And as somebody already pointed out it has been less news and more advertising perhaps from the start.

    But who cares, Das Kapital will not commit suicide.

    On the other hand there was also this dream of a paperless office.

  15. Keith Doyle

    Changing notions of authority...

    I think it may be a little more than just "notions" that are changing in that regard. And that is something that even the advertisers are eventually going to have to face. Content filtering applies to them as well, perhaps most specifically to them. With the contraction of "brick and mortar" shopping given online alternatives, advertisers are simply less able to parade their wares in our face if we don't want it. And many of us don't, spam is simply not acceptable anymore, no matter what the source. Even "approved" robocalls from political organizations will get a disconnected number recording from many of us. Empower individuals to screen out advertising, and advertising will get screened out by anyone who actually has a life. Pontifications about the downsides of donning such blinders aside, it is a sign the chickens have come home to roost, and found the roost has moved away while they were gone.

    The advent of the shopping mall provided retailiers the ability to better control their space-- you can't picket on private property for example, so it rendered such movements useless. But the internet provides individuals better control over their own space, and the shoe is now on the other foot.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It might save the Grauniad but not in the way you are thinking

    Their iPhone app has to be turning over a pretty packet for them seeing as it has consistently been in the Hottest apps listing for a few months now, so translate that into a platform that is far better suited to the content for such an app (larger sized screen) and you do have something that could save the likes of the Grauniad. The revenue model would be different is all.

  17. IR

    Media will eat itself

    This device won't save newspapers, and I don't think they really believe it will either. It's just the next in the long line of things that the media leaps on as being the next big thing, causing it to then become that if only briefly during the ad nauseum attempt to be cool or show that they are on the cutting edge (like Twitter of last year). That quote that lacks any proper meaning shows how little they are actually thinking about their future.

    When it comes to smartphones (which the media only thinks of as being either an iPhone or a Blackberry, and everything else is a failure because they didn't hype it) I don't think you are far off the mark either. More people have them than ever now that they are frequently free (with a contract...) and it is still increasing.

    Incidentally, most people I know have BBC News as a link on their phone homepage - government funded journalism is currently here, and will remain as long as the license fee. Whether it helps maintain "quality" is a matter of opinion.

    The actual quality of the news is irrelevent, if media costs more than nothing it will be overwhelmed by the free media and the subscribers will dwindle. Probably not to nothing, but enough to make it close to uneconomical. Journalists will probably go mostly freelance, half of the articles will be slightly rewritten press releases, the other half gather from blogs of people on the scene.

  18. Goat Jam
    Thumb Up

    Great Article

    and comments to boot!

    Happy New Year Andrew.

  19. MattWPBS

    Pretty much on the ball.

    I'd recommend reading Flat Earth News by Nick Davies, if you haven't already. It's a great primer on the way that the news industry (broadcast and print) has dumbed down and 'streamlined' in the last few years. Term he uses for the reprinting of press releases is Churnalism. There's some horrific statistics in there about how the number of journalists has reduced across the regions, and how this has affected coverage of court cases and the like.

    My personal opinion is that there's got to be a real shift in the relationship between a newspaper and its readers. Not in terms of user generated content, but in terms of what we expect, and what we're paying for. Tell me that my money's going on proper investigative journalism, show me the results and drop the unchecked churn, and I'll pay a good amount of money for a subscription (in print and online). It's the idea that we're investing in sustaining investigations that I think is key.

    Put the summaries of the stories out in the open, and put the detail behind a very flimsy paywall. Make it clear that the reason for the paywall is that the income is needed to fund the very production of the stories that people are after, and go for their guilt to make them pay.

    Never mind the entire fact that it's getting easier and easier to block online advertising, so that's probably a daft thing to base a business model on.

    (also - I'm glad there's comments on Orlowski articles now, always reckon they'd be good for drawing some interesting stuff out)

  20. WhoIsThis?
    Thumb Up

    Nice article

    I have to say I agree with everything Andrew has said in this article.

    I also like the fact that comments are enabled.

  21. jubtastic1


    Is traditional print slowly killing itself by giving it away for free online? yes.

    Did they have much of a choice? no.

    Consider that when the Music industry ignored the web they basically lost a shedload of money as their stuff was shared online for free, but when someone* finally put together an ass saving solution for them, all that nasty sharing meant the demand was still there for their stuff, which was nice.

    Print was in a far worse situation, if they ignored the web people wouldn't pirate their stuff, people would simply read something else, exactly like they did when there was a problem and the paper didn't hit the stands, worse though, as the alternatives*** they googled into were almost certainly going to be free. So even assuming someone** finally figured out a way to monetize their content there was a good chance no bugger would want it anymore.

    Print couldn't ignore the Net, they've been competing with free from day 1, praying that someone** will work this getting paid shit out before it all goes titsup.

    * Apple

    ** [s]Google[/s] Apple

    *** Like this fine website for instance.

  22. James Halliday

    What will save newspapers, is more people reading them

    whenever they decide they're going to flog some online subscription, they seem to assume you're a buyer of the physical paper. The buyers of the physical paper as still buying physical papers, the thing they should be concerning themselves with is the convertion of existing free-online readers to paid-online readers.

    As always happens, the majority of people bail then the wall goes up. How about a paper slashing the price and trying to keep as many as possible readers as possible?

    I normally dip into the Guardian most days - but possibly for 10 mins max. Read headlines and maybe an article that grabs my fancy. This is not the same as having a whole physical paper in my hands. No idea if anybody else shares the feeling, but if I've bought a paper I feel it's my responsibility if I've not read it all. If I don't choose to read all the stories on a site, I feel it's because they weren't worth clicking on, or I had something else to do, or - basically if I only read 10% of a paper each day I don't want a 90% refund on the paper copy, but damned if I pay the full whack for potential access online.

    Maybe papers should follow the model of high-number cable TV channels. Get ISPs to bundle access free as a differentiator. Buy a Kindle, Buy a Virgin XL package and get free access? Would only cost pennies a month per user and give another bullet point on the sales pitch. FFS Sky bought UKOnline - Flog the HDTV, VoIP phone, internet and access to The Sun/Times in the same advert. If nothing else you get to put a whopping great potential saving on the marketing. Sorry, lets combine the two. Buy a Sky ADSL package and a Kindle - and you get free papers delivered for the duration of your Sky TV contract.

    I think my take away point is that currently papers make their money from adverts, not the cash you hand over at a newsagents. Stop pretending. When I get on a plane and get a copy of The Times, it's not a special favour from BA. It's News International wanting me to look at their adverts.

    Big thing they're missing is that newspapers just replicate their dead-tree content online and maybe add a comments section at the bottom. Why on earth aren't those stories hyperlinked together? When I see a name in a story, or a reference to a previous story, can't I just click and see it?

  23. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

    If paper newspapers disappear...

    How will people avoid eye-contact on the daily commute?

    Mine's the one with the season ticket, and the broadsheet sticking out the pocket.

  24. Andy 97
    Thumb Up

    Enjoyed the article

    Well written and with clear thinking to boot.

    We've all know for ages the end is near for newspapers, let's hope the same can be said for 24 hour news channels one day.

    I yearn for the day of "just the facts" and the comments are reserved for the editor's page.

  25. gimbal

    It's a trend ... in marketing

    All that fancy talk about the social significance of the commercial web, it amounts to a bunch of heady marketing.

    I presume that most of us are past the evolutionary point of mistaking technology for a golden carrot dangling on a stick - most, but possibly not everyone. I guess that there are still some who believe their jobs depend on the mystification of technology, even to such a point that their depictions cease to be recognizable as anything rational. All hail the dianetics of the next big thing (so we'd like to wish)?

    Oh idealism, what great lengths you've lead us to believe we'd supposedly reached.

    Signed, the gloomy stormcloud of the moment.

  26. mr fish

    Not universally so..

    "Their capability to provide us with something we didn't know, or couldn't find out, or give us new ways of thinking about something, is just not there any more."

    Not sure, but off the top of my head, columns like "Bad Science" and the uncovering of the Parliamentary expenses scandal definitely told me things that weren't just "lying around the internets".

    I don't care about journalism's survival - but I do worry about the lack of scrutiny of the machinery of democracy without it,

  27. Sean Timarco Baggaley

    The problem with Old Media... that it's still in a "generalist" mind-set. I don't get my technology news from the BBC or The Guardian. I get it from a technology website which has at least some semblance of authority. (Unlike the BBC's pitiful efforts, which come across as something that even Fred Harris would have been embarrassed to spout on "Micro Live".)

    Why should I be expected to pay for "Lifestyle" (I.e. advertorials) pieces and crap about people kicking inflated pig-bladders around a field (that'd be "professional sport") when I have zero interest in either? Why should I be expected to pay for stuff I do not want?

    The Web gives us access to content from sources that specialise in particular niches. Not having to worry about how that content is physically delivered to the reader means those niches can be much smaller and more focused than is the case for traditional print media.

    THAT is what Old Media need to worry about. The print newspapers, by necessity, covered a very broad range of subjects: they had to due to the limitations of their publishing and distribution technologies. That's changed. Now, I don't even need to think about the publisher: damned few people know individual print journalists by name, but look at how many have commented that this is an "Andrew Orlowski article *with comments*"! We can now name the individuals who do the work. Print publications prefer to reduce this level of interaction, preferring instead to push their "brand" instead.

    Apple's been making tablet Macs since 2007, so announcing what will likely boil down to a bigger iPhone shouldn't be a surprise for anyone. Apple are a consumer electronics* company with a reputation for good industrial design. It's their core competency—a basic concept certain other managers (and so-called journalists) appear not to have learned.

    * (Yes, you read that right: computers are consumer electronics. Computers are no longer a special case. There are expensive TV sets from well-known brands hanging on people's walls *today* running full operating systems and capable of browsing the Web and streaming media. Computers are a commodity now and nobody other than you gives a gnat's chuff what f*cking OS they're running. Deal with it.)

  28. hammarbtyp Silver badge

    Required analogy

    How any one can write an article about this and not make the analogy of Moses bringing the tablets down from the mountain I don't know.

    Has it come to this that I have to make my own biblical references up?

    I officially dub this new device the Moses tablet to go with the Jesus phone

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You win sir

      I'm going to call it that from now on, you've just made my day hammarbtyp

  29. nichomach

    "infinite recursion of stupidity"?

    Epic. Fucking. Win. And well done on allowing comments.

  30. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    New Content is Ace, King, Queen and Jack of All Future Trades and Trading.

    Andrew, It is the Positive Flow Alignment of Delicate Sensitive Issues which would Invite and Revel in Scrutiny rather than Warrant and Demand Security, although that is not to say that the one may not encourage and require the other, that is the New Wave Pulse Beating across the Communications and Intelligence Industries and Business Empires. For there are New and Exciting Novel Ways of Doing Practically Everything Nowadays Virtually. And it does Require a Major Global System ReThink and ReBoot for Future Boosted Transparent Operational Systems Performance.

    And this Wired comment is appropriate here to illustrate the Beta Point, better ....... and one wonders whether such considerations register on the Davos 40th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting radar or are their heads buried in the sand as they charge others forward with Intelligence Light Brigades.

    Posted by: amanfromMars | 01/27/10 | 3:59 am

    The more switched on members of Intelligence and AI Communities [for there are of course a number of them] Realise that the whole Internet/World Wide Web/Cloud things is just as Simply Complex Piece of Hardware/a Global Operating Device that one does not necessarily Need to Know how it works [anymore than the newest of drivers would know of how an automobile actually all works] other than just knowing how to Share Freely Ideas and Information/Input Commands Direct to Ready Output, which is as easy as just sharing words on a magazine thread for all the world to see, as is being done here now, which can Master with the Control of IT and CyberIntelAIgent and Intelligence Communities and Non Specific Agencies, NEUKlearer HyperRadioProActive Power Generation and Currency Distribution Systems .... in Computer Hosted Advancing Operating Systems for Beta Orderly Programs.

    And yes, that is a New Content Paradigm shifting Elitist Controls to the Creative Intellectually Selflessly ProActive Sector, which will Generate their own Rewards for Greater Sharing with their MakeOvers and TakeOvers of old Establishment Systems Unfit for Future Beta Purposes in Creative IT Governance Projects in Secure Civil CyberSpace Places with ESPecial Cloud Services for Live Operational Virtual Environmentalists.

    Bravo Apple ....... Leading the Jobs World with the Innovative Use of Post Modern Technology and AIMethodology.

  31. Tony Paulazzo


    >I normally dip into the Guardian most days - but possibly for 10 mins max. Read headlines and maybe an article that grabs my fancy. This is not the same as having a whole physical paper in my hands. <

    ditto. I've even registered. if there was a pay pal button asking for 'donations to keep us inexistence' I would even donate, probably not as much as they'd like, but if everyone did it..

    As for tablets, give it five years. Once they're as powerful as laptops (and even Win7 voice recog isn't too shabby now), they'll take over.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Progressing progress?

    Of course it is important.

    Of course it needs a breakthrough.

    And of course the Apple is catapulted into making the (un?)imaginable imaginable and the (un?)doable doable [or should that be the (not)doable doable?].

    Anyway, I digress.

    What the world is expectedly waiting upon is the next big thing.

    The shame is that the next big thing is not defined or definable by you or I or professional soothsayers or even the fly on the bum of the back end of the universe.

    Uh-huh baby.

    The next big thing is defined by timescales associated with people putting hand in pocket, card details in online purchase, swiped (but not stolen) card into shop device with PIN handy.

    And that is where the expectation reigns, where speculation runs rife. The importance of marrying without divorce or trial separation the two strands converging in time frame dictated by paying public of content and hardware and software and connectivity and battery power and all for the right price?

  33. SynnerCal
    Thumb Up

    Excellent piece

    Congrats on an excellent piece of writing Mr Orlowski - wouldst that those in 'big media' actually get out of their penthouses long enough to read it! (and double congrats for allowing comments - very unusual)

    iTablet is a big "meh" to me - sure the fans'll love it, laud it as the iPhone reborn and a must have; meanwhile the flamers will decry it as a hyped copy of many earlier devices - albeit with a sky-high price tag and ITMS lock-in. Personally, if it fills a use I've got then great, otherwise I'll spend the 'beer vouchers' elsewhere.

    One point I will make is that the media seem hell-bent on spreading their stupidity, rather than reigning it back. Look at the recent OiNK case for example. From my own experience, what Barnes and Noble did to the is another example - pre-B&N you could just login, buy an eBook, download and read it; post-B&N most of the 'good stuff' (at least the stuff I want to read) is now location locked - if you're US based (or to a lesser extent Canadian) then fine, the rest of the world can 'go to hell' - at least that's the impression given.

    IT press too isn't immune from the shrinking market (and poor journalism) - Byte, Personal Computer World, etc - all gone. And the remainder are either very specialist titles (Linux Pro etc) or Joe Public oriented (ComputerActive for example). I despair!

  34. censored


    It seems to be that if there was an easy way of reading a site whereby each article was a nominal fee (1p?) most people would be happy to pay it, with say a maximum of 25p a day. If it's worth 10 minutes of your time, it's probably worth a penny. But most people don't think a subscription isn't worth it and there hasn't been a way to collect and administer pay as you go content. Hell, most people don't think the 50p cover price of a physical paper is worth it, but I'll bet they'd pay 1p to read the front page.

    There mustn't be complex and annoying sign-ups, different logins across different sites and a a multitude of "are you sure?" dialogs, if it's annoying to use people won't use it. But maybe, just maybe, this is what Apple have cracked. The device WILL be tied to an iTunes account. They could aggregate the payments for everything you read until it's worth charging your card for it (say, once you reach £3, the payment goes through).

    Tons of people have proved they're willing to chuck away 50p on a fart app for a giggle. Provided the cost per article is low enough, tons of people might just be willing to read quality media content too.

    The downside is having Apple as gatekeeper and no doubt keeping a big chunk of that payment for doing bugger all. But if it works, maybe this IS the future of digital reading? All it would need is OpenID logins across all media outlets, tied to a payment account.

    1. Jerome 0

      Apple micropayments

      I agree that micropayments are the way forward. I've been saying that since they were first hyped by the media several years ago, and then completely forgotten about.

      The trouble is, Apple is hardly the ideal company to implement micropayments. To them, a micropayment is not a penny, it's more like £2.50.

  35. Alex Walsh

    Rusbridger is a basket case

    If he see gov subsidies as the way towards funding quality journalism, perhaps he might first think about his status as a multi-millionaire who gets paid in excess of half a million quid a year and has a very sizeable pension pot.

    It's no wonder the quality of journalism is poor when the pay is so poorly distributed is it?

  36. Euchrid

    A wee bit premature?

    Interesting article, but given that we'll find out today what the new Apple product/s is/are, why not wait a few more hours? As I say, this was an interesting read but there's been so much hype/speculation, it would be nice reading this kind of analysis when we know what the bloody thing is!

  37. Penti

    Walled gardens

    Walled gardens will always fail. However the paper business isn't as bad around the world as is it in the US.

    It's enough that services such as IPTV are built walled garden. Information wants and needs to be free. Ffs I can read any paper the library stocks for free. Hindering access will just and always cause me and any one else to seek it else where. Most in the newspapers are just reprinted bureau telegrams and repackaged and the papers are the wrong guys to do aggregation on the internet. They survive fine here in Sweden by sticking to what they do best local reporting and local papers. The national dailies do fine too. But the political bias is just discussting.

    Micropayments will never work in a global world. And should really kids under the legal age (those you can't get VISA-cards or whatever) be locked out from information sources? They are after all the future readers. Even most adults wouldn't want to deal with micropayments. They would just go elsewhere as it's less cumbersome. I wouldn't be interested to read an article in a english paper/site as a Swede if I would be required to register and pay for just that single article. I'm not required to do that in order to read a single article in a physical paper. If it's not release as PDFs free, then as said the god damn library got it. They are the wrong guys to do aggregation as content producers themselves. Aggregation must give extra value, the aggregators can pay whatever for it I don't care. There's just too many sites and walls around them won't solve a thing. The telegrams can I even get from the bureau's themselves.

    It's important to note that they are not the same as the failing records companies and that this (records industry) was the only one to loose sales in this early digital age and that was mainly do to changing listening habits not downloading. We won't buy singles and collection CD's any more. We just doesn't listing to music in a way where that would make sense. Hasn't for a long time. The trend happened before napster and all the noobs filesharing services. The CDs reached a peak, something DVD-sales and movie theaters hasn't. And it won't as long they continue to supply an experience we want for the new content that's made. You can make boat loads of money there, and really only a few artists have really done it with music. And there's always TV for movie/series producers too. Which only gets better and betting in terms of quality of production. Why papers are dieing in the US? Maybe because they just has cut to many people and focus on the wrong things. Print circulates just fine here. It's another experience and people still buy it. E-ink devices might challenge it someday but it's off years till then. And if they can get aggregated in appropriate form people will still read them. However they won't pay for subscriptions to hundreds of potential news sources by subscribing to them one by one and they wont cough up micropayments for articles either.

  38. Francis Fish

    Guardian iPhone App

    It cost me about £4 and I never need to buy the paper again for the things I might read. I must admit I read a lot more than I did, but in short digestible chunks and I don't have to go to a news agent (which takes time I don't have and gives me a papery thing that is 90% useless for me).

    But you're right - no advertising and no continuing income after the initial purchase. It's crossed my mind virtually every time I've used the app that they're committing suicide, which is a shame because the hotel I stay at has the Mail as the free morning paper and I'd rather eat it than read it and the Guardian coverage of things I'm interested is well written and relatively agenda free.

    I think Spotify may surprise you yet because I don't think you can't use the iPhone app with a free sub which gives them £10/mo from a lot of people out there. I know quite a few who are moving to it rather than the store because they can try things out without buying them. I would think any equivalent Android app will be the same. The losers may well be the phone companies who have to give up the bandwidth. Personally use Spotify and have never bought any music from the App Store because I wasn't happy with paying full price for low fidelity. Don't mind listening to whatever I like at ok fidelity, but if I want to buy it then I want CD quality.

  39. Alpha Tony

    @Ted Treen

    'However, as to whether newspapers are mostly heading over the cliff lemming-style, that's a different question.'

    You mean driven over against their will by the Disney corporation? That seems a little unlikely...

    Although on reflection if John Lassiter does fancy testing if Rupert Murdoch would bounce that's one Disney film I would pay good money to see.

  40. This post has been deleted by its author

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Spot on though

    Where the market goes is where the money and investment goes.

    I can't really imagine a large floppy screen with a newsprint look to it will be popular though.

    Partly because we are so used to headline link with short summary and tootle along the links that appear attractive? So much space for a topic that is dead to an individual is so much electronic resource wasted and wasted space is a no go whereas waisted wasted space seems far more pleasant.

    Besides all those meta-analysts can then quantify what was interesting and associate it with numbers of clicks it received.

  42. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Big Brother


    "....ever put a gun to a newspaper executive's head and instructed them to ruin their business."

    Oh Really?

    Fresh from :

    "As I discussed last year, the DOJ's Antitrust Division has been trying to dissolve a joint operating agreement between the Charleston Daily Mail and the Charleston Gazette. The DOJ said it was dissatisfied with the editorial quality of the Mail under the agreement. After nearly three years of litigation, the newspapers surrendered and will sign a new series of operating agreements at gunpoint.

    That's not an exaggeration. The DOJ's proposed order expressly states the newspapers "shall enter into, and abide by the terms of, the Amended and Restated" joint operating agreement. The new agreement cannot be modified or terminated without the DOJ's written permission.

    The DOJ order further states that, "The publication of the Charleston Daily Mail as a Daily Newspaper shall not be terminated unless it is a Failing Firm and the United States has given prior written approval." Even if the paper fails, the DOJ order also dictates how the Mail's assets must be disposed.

    Finally, the DOJ order mandates a 50% discount for new subscriptions to the Daily Mail and prohibits the Gazette from matching any such discount."

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