Monday, July 19, 2010

Is the iPad the saviour of Print Media?

by Aidan Prinsloo, the Newcomer

American media houses are experiencing a declining turnover as more and more people turn to free online media. According to Brad White, ICANN Director of Media Affairs and Corporate Affairs, American newspapers have made a mistake in allowing news content to go online free of charge. Now, the American readership is used to getting news content for free and is less prepared to pay for subscriptions or print media.

As a result, the hallmark of 20th century journalism – investigative journalism – is under threat. White points out that investigative journalism require more people and time than modern media companies can spare, especially now that their turnover is lower. Many journalists from White’s generation lament that they have simply become ‘data collectors’, rather than investigators.

As negative as this sounds, many people agree (among them Brad White and Matthew Buckland, creator of and former head of Mail and Guardian Online) that print media is not dead. While digital media has its perks, print media still appeals to a large market. There are several reasons for this. One is that print media is still more successful as leisure media – that is, we prefer printed magazines and being able to hold and keep a hard copy of images and stories we like. White holds there is nothing like being able to read a newspaper at the breakfast table. Print media still has an aesthetic lead on digital media.

The other reason why print media is sometimes viewed as more successful than digital media is that people prefer familiar layouts. Buckland says that advertisers like to stick to familiar terrain. Even though there is a lot of innovation to be found in the technical side of information distribution, the people and businesses who access these networks are slow to change. Because the internet is still predominately textual, advertisers are loath to rely on it. If given an option, advertisers would still support print media.

However, Buckland disagrees with White. He thinks that, once advertisers have caught onto the potential of online advertising, media houses will be able to sustain themselves on advertising. This is where the iPad shows potential.

Rupert Murdoch has touted the iPad as the ‘saviour of printed media’, and while many may disagree with him, it is easy to see why he would say so. Its layout allows for visually orientated content similar to what one finds in magazines. Apart from advertisers, the iPad should also appeal to those segments of the public that prefer the aesthetic feel of magazines. Professor Mindy McAdams, of the University of Florida, describes it as a ‘beautiful French pastry’ – it’s so sensual, you just want to have it. That said, it remains to be seen if people will accept the iPad to the same extent that we have magazines. Many feel that, in an age where we tend to have one appliance with many uses, buying an iPad makes no sense when you have the iPhone on one side and the AppleMac on the other. People no longer want a range of appliances; rather, they want one with many functions.

Yet, on the other hand, the iPad shows potential as a money spinner for media houses if people buy into it. Buckland believes the main benefit of the iPad for media distributors is the financial implications. The iPad will require that applications, such as programmes for viewing magazine content, and the content itself be downloaded at a fee. One could also subscribe to magazines and television series. Sadly, this remains to be seen as there are almost no applications specific to the iPad to this date. Almost all of the apps for the iPad are modified iPod or Apple applications, says Buckland. As much potential as the iPad shows, the true test of its worth is whether or not people choose to buy it.

Listen to the audio podcasts below:

(* press F5 to Refresh on your keyboard if the video does not appear on your screen)
1.  The Public Obligation to Self-Inform - Brad White, ICANN

2. Is the iPad the Saviour of Print Media? Prof. Mindy McAdams comments

Disclaimer:  The above podcasts do not reflect the views of SPI.