If this is where news content is heading, what about the Web?

The iPad featuring the New York TimesAs I predicted last week, Apple’s big announcement is more about the content providers and the infrastructure for moving that content than the device itself. The game-changer for media companies — both local and global — is that they are now seemingly assured of that vaunted “second revenue stream” in the form of subscriptions. It’s enough to make front office types drool all over themselves.

But if this is where that “content” is heading, what about the Web — that already established ecosystem of free, albeit advertiser-supported content? To rightly answer the question, we must first get past the obvious: will this work? Will people pay for something they’re accustomed to getting for free? Sensing artificial scarcity, the copyright owners are now faced with the opportunity to shut the spigot and create a demand for their products. That’s a very dicey proposition, but just for the sake of argument, let’s assume the answer is yes.

For the answer to the original question, let’s go back to an old theme: news is a process, not a finished product. For the past couple of years, my “solution” for the newspaper industry has been to charge for their finished product efforts (the newspaper) and create a free, advertiser-supported continuous news Web offering. As the Web shifts to real time, this is the logical move for the news industry as well. Save the analysis for your finished product; follow the news in real time. This would be a 100% Web-native offering.

The Apple tablet also allows newspapers to provide an end of the day finished product, which they can then use the continuous news stream to promote. This puts them in the same position as local TV, for whom the concept of continuous news is perfect. Speaking of television, there’s nothing to prevent local TV from competing for eyeballs on the tablet computer as well. This should be on the front burner of any interactive division across the industry.

The point is that the Web has never been a newspaper, although newspapers have tried to make it so. Perhaps this new development from Apple (with others soon to follow) will alter front-office thinking to the point where all professional media can compete online in real time. That’s where the future of a hyper-connected universe is heading.

We’re going to hear MUCH more about all of this in the days and weeks to come, and we will certainly be following the developments for you. The love affair between Apple and media providers is sure to sparkle with intensity up front, but let’s see what happens when somebody has to do the dishes.

Comments

  1. I will not purchase an iPad until the second generation of them comes out. Once it does, I *would* pay for ADVERTISER FREE content to a VERY select few sources, as long as the price was low enough. I wonder if this has anything to do with the NYTimes picking now to announce moving to a pay model?

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