So last night the tech world waited with baited breath as Steve Jobs presided over the opening of the D8 conference and shared his pearls of wisdom with Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg. This means that much of the overnight conversation and today’s pontifications have been about dissecting these words of wisdom, which in itself was pretty interesting but there is one thing that His Jobness got wrong – very wrong.
In the lead up to the release of the iPad the newspaper and magazine world were praying for a Hail Mary that would save their asses from oblivion and due to the success of iTunes they believed that the iPad could be that savior. In last night’s tête-à-tête with Swisher and Mossberg, Steve Jobs alluded to the idea that if the newspaper and magazine industry followed the same iTunes model they would be able to see the same monetary returns.
I can tell you as one of the largest sellers of content on the internet to date — price it aggressively and go for volume. That has worked for us. I’m trying to get the press to do the same thing. They need to do it differently than they do it for print.
Can you spot the problem with this line of thinking?
Exactly – we are talking about two totally different types of mediums here. Music and even movies are not transitory. We love to re-listen to our music all the time. Movies not so much but people wanting to re-watch their favorite movies is a lot more likely than people wanting to re-read yesterdays news.
News, and even opinion and editorials, on the other hand is totally transitory. Hell you are lucky if a news items lasts out even an hour before going stale. So the idea of pumping constantly changing news through some kind of virtual newsstand that people are going to be willing to pay for, either in micropayments or monthly subscriptions, is a huge stretch.
Sure a lot of people right now are talking up how cool and transformative the iPad is when it comes to things like newspapers and magazines but this is still early days for the iPad and all we are seeing right now is the flush of first user experience. At some point though reality will set in and no matter how snazzy these Apple approved news kiosk might be that flush will wear off leaving us questioning why we’re paying for something that is freely available.
Mathew Ingram at GigaOM phrased it well when he wrote today
But this vision has two fundamental flaws — one psychological and one economic. The psychological flaw is that news stories and other forms of content that appear in newspapers and magazines (with very few exceptions) are not the same as music or even movies or books, in the sense that users want to keep them forever and read or watch them repeatedly, as media gurus Clay Shirky and Jeff Jarvis have also pointed out. In addition, all of that content is currently available in a completely legal way for nothing, from the websites of the content creators themselves, whereas music and movies are not.
Sorry but I just don’t see the iPad as being the Hail Mary savior that newspapers and magazines think it will be; and to which Steve Jobs is happily singing the tune off.