The arrival this week of the iPad is being treated in some quarters as the turning point in the industry's search for a palatable business model.
In other words, a model ideal marriage of a device, platform and content.
But TBI Research has punctured
the balloon by noting the revenue magazine publishers will derive from their new iPad applications will by no means offset their declines in circulation and advertising revenue from the printed product.
"Even if iPads fly off the shelves, magazines will still realize only a small per cent of their overall revenue," it notes.
Even if there are more than 2.5 million of the devices in circulation, they'll yield only about 10 per cent of the revenue magazines now derive from circulation and advertising, TBI notes.
It is getting preciously close to April Fool's Day, so it was with some skepticism that I read the account on the Singularity Hub
about the robotic journalist prototype.
But there it is: A wheeled device that infers its surroundings (and changes in them), queries nearby people, conducts searches on material to further develop it, snaps pictures and video, and publishes the result. It was developed in the informatics lab at Tokyo University.
Not dissimilar to devices that go where humans dare and should not in war zones, theses devices are surrogates. Unlike those, though, these are autonomous and not remote controlled.
Earlier this week Marc Andreessen was encouraging
old media publishers to burn the boats, to just move into digital and leave the printing presses behind. Commentators like Alan Mutter
weighed in and said the idea was ill-informed.
But the debate isn't going away. Today Erick Schoenfeld
of TechCrunch has added his voice, but it's more of an emotional than rational pitch. He asserts that it's necessary for media companies to get on the new wave before it's too late.
What he uses as evidence isn't all that meaty. He somehow thinks the $30-billion business will diminish to $20 billion and then to zero and that newspaper companies will wind up without a leg to stand on. The sooner they jump, the better they'll be at the new business.
It's easy to understand what he's trying to say: Don't wait too long. It's not easy to understand why he's saying the jump should be made now, when the business isn't done.
It's difficult to accept that somehow the business just keeps steadily evaporating. While it seems assured to be smaller, there will be declines and periods of flat or even nominal growth at times along the way. The decision may never be made to simply abandon a print edition; it may never make business sense to do so. We don't know yet.
What Mutter and others (I would include myself) have asserted all along is that it's helpful to keep one foot in the camp that is driving revenue as you try to drive change.
By all means devote energy and attention to the new platform, but don't throw away an operationally profitable business, community connection and loyal market.
Martin Langeveld, the industry veteran and contributor to the Nieman Journalism Lab site, has an extensive post
on how publishers can best embrace the imminent iPad from Apple.
He argues that mobile technology is going to be ubiquitous and that publishers ought to array their resources around several approaches.
Apart from some obvious directives --- array resources, create content and embrace the iPad --- Langeveld suggests publishers work with Apple to enable advertising personalization.
He also believes new relationships with marketers need to be created to facilitate transactions.
His latest post
for his Reflections of a Newsosaur blog is the first of a two-part series on the future of the newspaper. In it, Alan Mutter examines the consumer demand for the print publication.
He crunches numbers conservatively and concludes that the demand will decline, but not precipitously. By 2025, there will be a drop of 27 per cent and by 2040 a nearly 50-per-cent decline.
That still leaves newspapers in a reasonable condition as a consumer good. What isn't clear is whether advertising will depart in a disproportionate way and migrate to the related digital platform of a newsroom in a helpful way.
Another big issue: "The question for publishers is how long their audience will be large enough to justify the enormous expense of owning and operating the massive and inefficient infrastructure they use to manufacture and distribute newspapers."
The next instalment will deal with that issue.
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.
Google has indicated it is preparing a micropayment plan newspaper publishers could use in the coming year.
It would charge anything from a penny to several dollars for access to content across several merchants and over time. It would share revenue in what it calls a "premium content ecosystem" of syndication, third-party arrangements and feeds and fees. Google's Checkout service appears to be part of the platform.
Google suggests micropayment plans are not going to solve economic challenges, but that they could be part of the solution. While it is not the panacea, it is a significant gesture of possible assistance. The move is a surprise, considering the testy relationship newspapers have recently had with the search engine giant.
Google submitted the document, available below (the Nieman Journalism Lab obtained it), in response to the Newspaper Association of America's call for online business model proposals from industry.
The Times of London is reporting that the
Taiwanese computer company, Asus, renowned for its affordable netbooks, is about to enter the e-book race with a lower-priced unit than the popular Kindle.
According to the Times, Asus will release two models, with the lowest priced at about 100 pounds. It isn't clear if Asus will link the technology to a publishing distribution system or to other content --- the Kindle is, of course, an extension of Amazon.com and has deals with several print organizations.
But what is a major development is the format of the Asus unit: full-colour and hinged to emulate the reading experience. One of those two screens can be used as a keyboard.
With Sony readying a new unit at less than $200, and Plastic Logic in the wings, the race is going to heat up in the months to come. Still, recent research from Forrester indicates mass appeal depends very much on a much lower price point, no more than $100 and as little as $50.
Jeff Jarvis has put his new book into a precis. The PowerPoint is here.
The Monday Note suggests looking at a paid online model again in light of media business models under siege. It also suggests that many free services could afford some sort of charge for premium users, but that publishers need to devise strategies to make such models attractive.
At the moment I'm offside on that idea. True, in some cases, offering free services alongside paid ones has stimulated support for the latter by the former. But so much media content is readily available as a commodity, it is hard to gauge where a paid model might enter within the traditional journalism model. Outside that model, with all sorts of functions for a community, it is possible. But I don't see anyone, save WSJ.com, keeping its content behind a firewall --- and even WSJ.com can be found by a reasonably experienced search engine user.