Monday, May 4, 2009

Looking to Big-Screen E-Readers to Help Save the Daily Press

Technology may be partly to blame for newspaper subscriptions declining, but it can also be its salvation. As Kindle and others make electronic reading possible, downloads replace paper boys and kiosks.

Half the battle is controlling the flow of content. Content has value and as the Wall Street Journal has already proved, it deserves a subscription fee. The breadth and quality of the content can no longer be free for all. Advertising alone does not pay for all its cost. And the first step is for newspapers and magazines to rein in their content and control what they release. "The move by newspapers and magazines to make their material freely available on the Web is now viewed by many as a critical blunder that encouraged readers to stop paying for the print versions." The WSJ teases non-subscribers with bits of the article and reminds them that "membership has its privileges."

The other half of the battle is the electronic device. Today's Kindle and Sony E-Reader, with their small screen and black and white e-ink, are not good enough to provide readers with the full aesthetic. An Apple iPhone with its smaller screen is no better. It will be the next generation device that offers the right size, weight, and functionality, that will win out. Many view Apple as most likely to deliver first. "Such a device, with a screen that is said to be about three or four times as large as the iPhone’s, would have an LCD screen capable of showing rich color and video, and people could use it to browse the Web."

Will this save the print business in time? It feels a little bit like the chicken and egg; cutting off access to content and releasing more readers. The timing of each matters greatly in the hunt for eyeballs. I am eager for that new type of reader at a reasonable price point to pave the way. Look at what the iPod did for music and it seems the same is possible for print.

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