A new report
from Scarborough Research indicates e-reader owners and prospective owners stand to benefit the newspaper business. There are nine million of them in the United States alone and they are avid newspaper consumers
Some 78 per cent of e-reader households read a paper in the last day or week. Some 41 per cent did so in the last month --- compared to 27 per cent of households overall.
Scarborough says the arrival of e-readers offers excellent opportunities for monetization of content and a loyal audience for it.
Futurist Ross Dawson spoke this week
at the Newspaper Publishers Association conference in his native Australia and delivered a new timeline
for the point-of-no-return-to-glory newspaper: 2022. By that time, he expects most media companies will have transformed into thriving new media businesses.
Note that Dawson doesn't say newspapers will die/disappear/dissolve by then, only that their relevance will diminish to the point of irrelevance.
Dawson believes that within a dozen years e-reading tablets won't cost much more than pharmaceutical tablets --- about $10 --- and they will be the primary form of news consumption. He thinks news will be increasingly crowdsourced and that individual reputations of journalists will drive the size of audiences.
Meantime, news companies will need to transform into firms emphasizing social connection.
As for revenue, it will grow but disperse, Dawson predicts.
Next Issue Media released a study
today indicating the U.S. periodical business can recognize $3 billion in interactive revenue by 2014. It's a prediction predicated on some challenging assumptions --- lots of devices, lots of familiarity, touchscreens and colour --- but the Oliver Wyman study
identifies some major gains ahead for 230 periodicals:
1. Higher renewal rates of subscriptions if an interactive edition is available --- 64% instead of 55%.
2. Greater revenue from bundled print/interactive packages, something consumers so far like.
3. Bill-me-later interactive editions heavily reduce churn rates to 25% from 45%, again yielding greater revenue.
4. Cross-selling advertising through recommendation engines through the editions will drive revenue from other products.
5. Availability of interactive editions will triple uptake from non-subscribers to the print periodical, to 15% from 5%.
The study nevertheless indicates some immense challenges for publishers: devices need to be encouraged, archival material made available, workflows changed, partnerships established, among other things.
The lead item in this edition of the Columbia Journalism Review
examines the opportunities mobile and e-reading provide the business of journalism. Essentially author Curtis Brainard argues that, done right, mobile gives journalism a second chance to find a business model.
But there are big if's in the journey: The content needs to be different to reclaim the added-value nature of what used to be, the advertising needs to find an easy way to campaign across various platforms, the industry needs to create partnerships to stay ahead of the technology curve, and there is that most tricky question of whether consumers will shell out for subscriptions and services in an era of abundance.
Still: "The circulation levels and ad dollars of yesterday may be gone for good, but there are real opportunities to reclaim control of journalism’s financial future. Second chances are rare, and if we miss this opportunity to capitalize on digital content, we may not get a third."
Wired writes on impending technology
that detects how you're reading text, how you pause, how you stare, how you might even lose your train of thought, and adjust.
It's called the Observer Effect and technology is emerging to reduce the friction in the reading experience. It can help you if you're puzzled, deal with you if you're stuck, or even eliminate extraneous material if you're skimming.
Wired author Elliot Van Buskirk identifies the iPad as the first possible test of this tech. He notes Apple is involved in software breakthroughs to accommodate reading, an era of Text 2.0.
He concludes the new technology, once released and experienced for some time, could reinvigorate reading.
In recent months it is increasingly clear that the major cost challenge ahead for newspapers isn't the creation of journalism but the manufacturing and distribution of the journalism.
So, why not use the latest technology to bypass the printing press and the delivery infrastructure, borrow a page from the phone companies and hitch an iPad to a newspaper subscription?
The Joe Zeff Design blog suggests this
and it is not alone in conceptualizing a multi-year subscription coupled with a cost-defrayed iPad. The notion is that this would be win-win.
The challenge is twofold: First, not everyone wants or can use a substitute for ink on paper, and second, it's unclear what a newspaper could do once the subscription term ran its course. Would it have to continually refresh technology --- as the phone companies do --- to keep the customer?
Apple has indicated it has an announcement January 27 and all speculation focuses on the introduction of its tablet-like device that most believe will be called iSlate.
The Guardian's Mercedes Bunz suggests in a post today
that one thing Apple could do, if it were trying to support journalism, would be to unveil a micropayment plan along the lines of iTunes for news.
Her post is more hopeful than empirically grounded. There is little indication Apple will do more than have some publishing partners for its device, and the one notable likely partner (The New York Times) is already neck-deep with other devices like the Kindle.
But Bunz notes that Apple could help journalism address its micropayment conundrum by bringing the notion forward as it brings its device to market.
Quietly in the background there has been activity in the electronic ink business to enter the news industry well beyond the Kindle.
The latest development involves five media companies joining forces on technical standards for the e-readers at the heart of news industry optimism about lowering publication and distribution costs.
The report in Editor & Publisher
identifies the ambition of a common digital storefront, with similar screen sizes, applications and operating systems to prevent the HD/BlueRay or Beta/VHS problems of emerging and warring technologies.
Time Inc., News Corp, Conde Nast, Hearst and Meredith are all aboard, but it remains unclear what the journey looks like. They've simply signed on to pursue the approach.
The former CEO of Perseus Books Group posts a strong argument
that the adoption of the electronic reading device --- the e-reader of the e-book --- is going to take longer than the enthusiasts think.
Jack McKeown, now a consultant and vice president of the Verso Digital ad network for publishers, believes three issues stand in the way of the disruptive technological breakthrough akin to the MP3 player:
1. The e-book doesn't deliver the same value as the printed edition. Principally he says the experience of screen reading still isn't up to the standard of ink on paper, but he also suggests that the e-reader's computing capabilities are inhibiting note-taking.
2. The e-reader manufacturers may not understand the book-buying demographic. They seem more interested in the 18-to-34 age group, not the book buyers.
3. Pricing and distribution issues abound. There is no common platform or approach to cost.
While there is little question the transformation of the publishing industry is upon us, "if anyone out there assumes that the outcome is a slam dunk, guess again," McKeown writes.
Most of us in journalism believe that the spread of electronic readers like the Kindle, the new Barnes & Nobel device, the Plastic Logic scroll and others will usher in a new opportunity for reporting.
Daniel Lyons of Newsweek sets his optimism on Apple
as a target and suggests that its imminent tablet will be the piece-de-resistance of the movement.
He sees this as phase two of the Internet. Phase one was largely a matter of migration of content to the Web. This phase involves some kind of collectivity of media in one device, more legible and technically formidable.
A new language will emerge, he argues.