Tag Archives: iPad

Is Print Journalism Dead?

Is print journalism dead? I got the question overnight in email from a student working on a research paper. He’d seen this post on this blog about that. He asked me to answer these three questions.  So these are his questions with my answers. 

1.) What are the factors that have led to falling sales?

Start with cost: Print media have the cost of paper and the cost of physical distribution. Online media don’t. Is the print version worth the difference to the customer? To the advertiser? For now, sometimes yes, and sometimes no. Over the long term the increased acceptance of digital media makes the cost difference more important. 

Add convenience: I believe digital is inherently more convenient. My iPad, my Kindle, and my iPhone are more convenient because I have all the media in one small package. That’s also true for a lot of droid users. That’s not true for everybody, of course. Some people prefer paper. I know that. But I believe the relative convenience of digital will win over time.  That’s my opinion. 

2.) How can newspapers in particular re-position themselves in the digital media market to halt the decline in circulation?

Newspapers need to be available on the major operating systems of phones and tablets. 

Enhance the value for readers and advertisers. Add search and social media and comments and links to take advantage of digital in ways that printed newspapers can’t. 

Do the reporting that citizen journalists and opinion-based bloggers and social media don’t. Do the investigative reporting. Cover the town hall and local issues. Stay objective, reliably, and trustworthy. 

3.) Is the trend terminal and, if so, does it matter?

No, of course it’s not terminal. Nothing is ever absolute. Some newspapers and magazines will survive for a long time. The long tail will be there. But over time the survivors will be fewer, more narrow, and less important. 

So that’s my opinion.

And I don’t consider myself an authority on this. I’m not a researcher. Look at the thorough research being done by the major Journalism grad schools (Columbia, University of Missouri, University of Oregon, Stanford, many others) for a lot more info.

But I do have an opinion; and it is informed by nine years as a mainstream Journalist, 30 years as a magazine columnist on occasion, and seven years as a professional blogger. And I’ve got a master’s degree in Journalism. And I enjoy sharing opinions. For more on that, check out the Journalism category on this blog. 

The Mac vs. Windows Rivalry is Dead. Apple Won.

Whoops. It suddenly occurred to me: the old Mac-Windows rivalry is dead. There goes a bit of industry history. 

It used to be fun, back in the old days, when it mattered. If you’re old enough you’ll remember the famous 1984 Macintosh ad. I was generally forgiven by the Mac zealots for my weakness for Windows, but only because I also used Macs and recognized their superiority. My Mac friends treated my sympathy for Windows systems as a forgivable flaw in my character. 

I used to tell this modified version of an old joke: 

Somebody dies and goes to heaven. On arrival, St. Peter gives him the quick tour of the place. As they go through heaven from place to place, they look at the mall, the school, the park … and they keep seeing a high wall on one side or the other. Finally, the new arrival can’t resist asking: “What’s with the wall?” St. Peter Answers: “That’s where we keep the Mac users. They like to think they’re the only ones here.”

I like Apple. I consulted with Apple from 1982 to 1994. Apple loaned me an Apple II in 1983 and a Macintosh early in 1984. I wrote the first book laid out on an AppleLaserWriter (at least according to me and McGraw-Hill Microtext, the publisher). As a consultant to Apple, I worried as Windows started to effectively imitate the Mac — not that it was as good, but it was good enough to fool a buyer in a store. And it was personally painful to me when the Windows system so dominated business computing, the late 1990s and early 2000s, that we (temporarily) dropped our Mac business plan product. We really had to. By 2000 a Mac product was costing ten times more than Windows to develop, and its market was about ten times less than Windows. Business is business.  

By 2004 my computing was all Windows. And at that point my computing was all Windows. It wasn’t torture. Windows worked. I use a computer to get things done, and Windows did. I may have still preferred Mac, but hey, business is business. 

And then the Mac came back. We saw them first in airports, the MacBooks, silently gaining strength and visibility. Then there was the iPhone, and more MacBooks. And then the gorgeous new iMacs. I taught an entrepreneurship class at the University of Oregon from 1998 through 2009. In the beginning all my students had Windows laptops. By the end, 80% of them were on Macs. 

Once again, being Mac literate is good business. At Palo Alto Software, our LivePlan SaaS app is browser-based, operating system neutral, and developed mostly on Macs. And Mac software, and the Mac software market, are growth markets again. The app store works. Happy ending. 

So now I’m almost all Mac again. I have two iMacs at home, a MacBook air, and iPhone and iPad, and I love it. An old friend. Isn’t computing great? And my Windows 7 desktop, in the office at the company, still works just fine too, thanks. It’s not good and evil, just computing. 

But don’t tell the Linux geeks. 

 

About Time: Ebooks Outselling Printed Books

Last week Jeff Bezos announced that E-books now outsell print books at amazon.com. Computerworld reported:

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said the e-book threshold arrived sooner than expected. “Customers are now choosing Kindle books more often than print books,” he said. “We had high hopes that this would happen eventually, but we never imagined it would happen this quickly.” Amazon has sold printed books for 15 years and Kindle books for less than four.

I’ve been a believer in the future of ebooks for a long time, beginning back in the 1990s when I first bought a Rocket ebook reader for my book-hungry youngest daughter. I used an early t-mobile PDA, then a kindle, lately my iPhone and iPad.

For those of us with the means to have easy access to technology, the ebook just makes so much sense, on so many levels, that since I first got one I’ve thought this was inevitable.

Funny, Jeff Bezos saying they didn’t think it would happen this quickly. When I first saw that first ebook reader I guessed wrong; I thought it would happen way more quickly than it actually has. On the other hand, by the time the Kindle came out, I was starting to think it would never happen.

I’m glad it did.

Not the Customer’s Job to Know What They Want

There was a nice short video on TechCrunch the other day, quoting Mark Zuckerberg, John Doerr, and two other industry leaders on how much the iPad has changed “everything.” I picked it up because of what John Doerr says near the end.

The video snippet I’ve embedded here skips directly to my favorite part, at 2:45, very near the end, as John Doerr talks about Steve Jobs saying what market research has done for the iPad. Jobs says:

It’s not the consumers’ job to figure out what they want.

I like that. As we turn increasingly to polling and research for answers, the problem is that people don’t often say what they really think, and quite often don’t even know what they really want. One kind of leadership, to me, is leading people instead of asking people. You take a guess. When you guess right, you win big. Guess wrong, you lose.  Is it possible that this is also called entrepreneurship? What do you think?

Is Flipboard’s Buzz Bad Timing or Good Marketing?

What do you think? Is this bad timing, a buzz-killing mistake, or artificial scarcity that creates more buzz?

I was in an email conversation recently with the founder of one of the coolest new news apps available on the iPad, and he asked me what I thought about Flipboard.

I’m guessing why he asked: all that buzz, all at once. This is an iPad app released last week. It’s supposed to integrate Twitter and Facebook,  with news and blogs, and a cool iPad look. In case you missed it, try this Google search. Nearly two million hits. Suddenly, everybody was talking about Flipboard.

Buzz envy. Who can blame him? Pardon my cynicism, but it doesn’t look that much different from the new Huffington Post app, or Apollo News, Pulse News, or Skygrid. So how did they get all that attention all at once? Have your marketing people study that one. It’s very impressive.

But here’s the business problem: timing. Wasting your buzz by not having your logistics ready for it. Take a look at what happens today, after you download your Flipboard, when you start to use it:

You guessed it: they’re taking email addresses and building a waiting list. “We’ll reserve your place in line,” they say. The bandwidth wasn’t set up to handle the marketing. I got interested, downloaded, and now have to wait for however long it takes to actually run the app. The buzz happened without delivery. Remember a few decades back, when people talked about vaporware? Credibility gone fast. Buzz wasted. What a shame.

Unless it actually works. After all, I just added another page to the buzz.

With or Without Paper, the News Lives On. I hope.

As the newspaper business seems to die slowly, I console myself with the idea that journalism isn’t dying with it. The Huffington Post is booming. The New York Times will bring in about $350 million this year. The new iPad shows us how we can spread the paper in front of us with coffee and a newspaper in the morning. There’s hope. They capped the stupid oil spill overnight. Maybe they’ll cap the journalism spill too. Eventually.

I wish I knew who I’m quoting here, but I don’t. Somebody mentioned this quote to me recently:

I don’t care about newspapers. I do care about journalism.

iPad NewsWhat if news didn’t come on mashed-up trees? What if it came online instead? What if the iPad is the future of the daily newspaper? I can still sit with my coffee and page through the news. Sort of.

Can we survive with a few big online news organizations, but no newspapers?

In that case, who’s going to cover the city council meeting? Who’s going to spend months doing investigative reporting? And who’s going to pay the salaries of the people spending months on investigative reporting?

Meanwhile the Huffington Post, by far the most successful news business of the last half decade, is paying journalists full time incomes to develop the news. They have a handful of their own correspondents. That’s not the answer to those questions, but it is a start.

And I read this morning on TechCrunch how Ex-Google News, Bing Engineers Set Out To Build ‘Newspaper Of The Future’. Oh the irony: my stream of consciousness goes from TechCrunch to blogs to declining print advertising to slow death of newspapers; and I read about it in TechCrunch.

And, then, without hesitation, I signed up for both the apps mentioned, Apollo and Pulse, to go with my New York Times, Huffington Post, CNN, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, NPR, and SkyGrid. So it’s not like I won’t have news. And local news? That icon in the lower left of my iPad picture above is the Eugene Register Guard, which is my local newspaper. Now, as long as the local paper can figure out how to survive on its online revenues … sigh…

No, I’m not suggesting the iPad is the big answer or magic solution. It’s mostly just a good illustration. This is a long-term change of worldwide news landscape, and the iPad is significant here because this is how things are going to be. The iPad will have good competition soon enough. Let’s hope it does, and that the competition generates money for news organizations, so that the journalism survives.

Traveling With iPad Alone

I’m writing this post from a hotel in San Francisco, using my new 3G iPad (propped against the wall on the desk) and an Apple Bluetooth keyboard.

This was supposed to be a quick trip, Friday to Monday, helping my youngest daughter move from Palo Alto to San Francisco. It was going to be a lot of work, leaving not a lot of time for blogging, browsing, or email. And the iPad, although not as useful as a normal laptop, is so much more fun. And I’ve already done one week-long trip carrying both the iPad and a MacBook Air, which felt like some sort of ironic defeat of cool new technology. So I decided to do this one with just the iPad, no laptop.

Here are some random discoveries I’ve decided to share:

  • The iPad is irresistibly entertaining. Maps, apps, videos, books, and I haven’t even got a single game, but it’s still that entertaining. I’m not sure it’s a business tool, but it’s definitely a delightful travel companion.
  • The battery life is sensational. It really does last like 10 hours.
  • The Bluetooth keyboard turns this iPad into an acceptable writing instrument. I’m a touch typist (does anybody use that phrase anymore?) and I almost think with my fingers on the keyboard. The iPad built-in keyboard is an acceptable compromise for data input and quick emails, but I need the tactile feel of the keyboard to write. And it fits in my backpack well enough.
  • I wish they’d add a Bluetooth mouse. I’ve read about somebody setting up a mouse to go with the keyboard to turn the iPad into a small laptop; but that required jailbreak and I don’t have the heart to do that with a brand new iPad.
  • I love the 3G. Usually I buy the $10-$15 per day Internet connection in the hotel, it’s a business expense, so it’s a no brainer. But because of the moving work, I didn’t even get back to the hotel until past 8 p.m., and I intend to leave first thing in the morning. So with the 3G I saved my company $12.95. My daughter’s new apartment doesn’t have the Internet connection set up yet, but with the 3G, we were still able to browse the Web for information.
  • I’m running into a lot of problems with the Safari browser on the iPad. A lot of things don’t work well. For example, in a previous hotel I needed to scroll a window of text to accept the hotel’s conditions for free wireless. On a laptop, it would have scrolled the text to the end and popped up a button to click for acceptance. The iPad wouldn’t scroll the window, so I couldn’t get the free Internet. Flash-based maps (and there are a lot of them) don’t work. It can be frustrating.
  • I love the pricing of iPad apps. I’m amazed that people complain about paid apps. The Apple word processing, spreadsheet, and slide deck apps are only $10 each. Mind mapping is $6. Guided navigation for $30. Lots of free apps. As a software entrepreneur, it scares me. As a user, it’s exciting.
  • The entertainment value, meaning the pure fun of iPad videos and books and apps and such, is unmistakable.
  • For real business, a laptop is better. The iPad doesn’t have multi-tasking, and doesn’t have a keyboard.

Conclusion: it’s a lot of fun. But it’s a luxury item, not a work tool.

(Image: from Wired Magazine)

What Amazon and iPad Teach us About Strategy

I love it: now when I buy a Kindle book from Amazon.com, I can have it on my iPhone, my iPad, my Mac laptop, my Windows laptop, my Mac Desktop, or my Windows desktop.

Kindle on iPadThis makes me feel like I really own the book. If I have a spare 10 minutes, just about wherever I am, I can read the book. It’s great usability. Great convenience.

And I love the business strategy implications. By making Kindle books available on every possible hardware device, Amazon chooses not to reserve them for people who buy the Kindle hardware. Is this a sacrifice? Helping competitors? Does the iPad make the Kindle less desireable? Yes? Does having Kindle books available on the iPad mean Amazon.com will sell more Kindle books? Yes.

On the long term, Amazon wins because it focuses on what it does really well. Kindle books become the standard. It’s called focus. And strategy is focus.

Business Strategy in Action, or Reaction, Both, or Neither

Apple vs. Kindle vs. publishers, oh my. Do you know the background? It’s all over the web. And I posted here this week about how Apple and Amazon.com and Macmillan are wrapped up in an ebook battle. And it gets better. As I write this, Wednesday evening, the news is that Amazon gave in and put Macmillan back into the mix, but at higher prices. But I just checked the site and my favorite Macmillan book, Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded, is listed there as available through third parties only. So go figure.

I’m fascinated with all of this. Really, business strategy in action. Consider these questions, and ask yourself: if you were Steve Jobs, or Jeff Bezos, what would you do?

  1. Does Apple Computer block the Kindle app on its new iPad? The iPad runs iPhone apps, and the Kindle iPhone app works great. But does that mean iPad users can buy Kindle books for their iPad for $9.95, while Apple’s iPad iBooks cost $14.99?
  2. Apple can block the Kindle app, of course. But what will users say about that? Apple users tend to take Apple as some public resource. They’re incensed when Apple acts in its own business interest instead of the public good. Would cutting off the competition be worth the dark side mask?

  3. Is Amazon.com seriously going to cut off its nose to spite its face? They took all Macmillan books off of Amazon.com because of a pricing and revenue share argument related to the iPad. But doesn’t that hurt the Amazon.com business proposition? Don’t we all go there to find the world’s largest inventory? And now they say they’re giving in, putting Macmillan back, and at the higher prices it demanded. What does that do for the Kindle pricing ceiling at $9.99? What happens to the $5 differential on iPad between a Kindle book and an iPad book?
  4. Do publishers gain by fighting either format, or either channel? Now Macmillan books are playing second fiddle at Amazon.com. It’s hard to tell from here, but it’s been presented as Macmillan squaring off against Amazon.com for a larger share of the revenue. That’s a bold move. Would you do it? How would you feel if you were a Macmillan author?
  5. What about Sony, or Barnes and Noble? These other ebook readers that were seriously planning to compete… are they just blown away? What can they do?
  6. Does this mean ebooks are finally for real? I’ve liked ebooks for more than 10 years now, read them on an early Rocket ebook reader, on a PDA, on a Kindle, and on my iPhone, as well as on a number of laptops. Are they finally going to get to critical mass? That would be nice.
  7. Do smart buyers wait for all of this to sort out? Remember the Sony Betamax format vs. VHS? You don’t want to invest on the losing side here, right? I finally bought Blue-ray HD after HD DVD lost the battle.

I’m enjoying the spectacle. I’ve got the Kindle, I’ve got the iPhone with the Kindle app on it, and I’ll probably buy an Apple iPad for its entertainment value, form factor, and long batterly life. For ebooks the iPhone Kindle app is still my favorite, so I’ll probably use the Kindle app on the iPad too, when I get it — if Apple doesn’t block it, that is. I don’t see how the bells and whistles of the new iBook reader can be worth the extra $5. But, since it’s not shipping for a few months anyhow, I’m going to wait and watch.

And I’m especially watching the strategy play out. Several of these big players can make bold decisions that will cut off competition and annoy the hell out of buyers. Is that the way it’s going to go?

(Image credit: from Mashable’s recent post on the eBook War)

eBooks: Hot, Flat, Crowded, and Not on Amazon.com. Let the Games Begin

(Important: late-breaking news. Since this was posted earlier today, Amazon has reversed its position on this. Macmillan is back, but with its own pricing on the Kindle. This is important. Here’s a link.)

eBook wars, you say? On one hand, it’s about time. On the other, wow, this is strategy in action. And interesting spectacle too. That’s why in athletics the championship games are more interesting: two big winners squaring off.

Mashable led over the weekend with Apple vs. Amazon: The Great Ebook War Has Already Begun, a post by Ben Parr, whose work I like a lot. Posted Saturday, it’s about Amazon and Macmillan. It’s hard to tell who’s making the move on whom here, but the announcement was that Amazon.com was removing Macmillan books from its web store:

According to the New York Times, the reason the books were pulled was the iPad. Macmillan told Amazon that it wanted to change its pricing and compensation agreement, upping the price of some books from $9.99 to $15 and splitting sales 70/30, the same model Apple uses for the iPhone app store and its upcoming iBooks store. Amazon’s apparent response was to flex its muscle and pull countless Macmillan books off the virtual shelves.

Last Friday I posted how the competition is win-win for all sides. We get a choice: Kindle books, just text, for one price, or Apple iBook books (pizazz) for a higher price. You get to decide. Ah, the magic of commerce.

But with Amazon.com and Macmillan biting off each other’s noses, it’s not so clear. Ben Parr wrote:

That’s why Amazon decided to use its biggest weapon, Amazon.com itself, against Macmillan to send a message to every publisher: If you don’t play by its rules, then you can’t be in its store. While a publisher can likely survive without the Kindle, the same cannot be said for Amazon.com. Publishers simply cannot afford to leave the world’s largest online retailer.

Who wins? In this case, the losers are Amazon.com and Macmillan, and all Macmillan authors, and anybody who wants to buy their books. Amazon? Don’t we all go there because we can find all the books imaginable there? And now we don’t? Although you can still buy Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded on Amazon.com, you can’t do it directly. They list it as available from third-party sellers, even though it’s one of the most important books of the last year. And here’s some irony: Priceless, William Poundstone’s analysis of free and fair value and all, is another victim.

Remember the old days, when things like this were about giving customers what they want?