Last iPad Comment

I am just about iPad-ed out so I will wind up my comments and twittering by referring to another article on whether it will be the saviour of print journalism.

Newspaper reporting was my first career before I made my way into IT almost 17 years ago. There was no consumer internet back then, and in one company, the computers were little more than dumb terminals. I never really took a shine to computers back then, but once I started working on Macs (in the early 90s) I began to warm up to them. However, I always remember newspaper people as being disdainful of the technology and very cautious in their adoption.

Paul Michelman, the author of the article referenced above, has a similar background. An executive editor at the Harvard Business Review Group, he bought an iPad last weekend and fails to see how the device can save print media. He says the assumption that existing print and web can be retrofitted on to “very immature medium” is wishful thinking. Trying to use it to “kill this ‘free’ thing once and for all” is an attempt to save the business model over meeting the consumer’s needs, says Michelman.

I like the media, and I like writing (which is a large part of why I do this). But looking at the newspapers — paper or virtual — can be very frustrating. They can be particularly bad in Ireland, and their failings are all the more obvious by the ready availability of quality journalism from around the world. The “free thing” is here to stay, I suspect. I stopped buying daily newspapers years ago. I still get one on Sunday but I have noticed that the quality of analysis and commentary on economic issues is much better on sites like IrishEconomy.ie and True Economics. As for politics, that is so debased at the moment that the only rational response is to assume the government is wrong, lying, mistaken or brain dead until compelling evidence to the contrary turns up.

A free newspaper is thrust in to my hand every morning on the way to work. It’s light on news and has no analysis, but it is nice to have something to flick through. Their letters are better than wading through the self-important windbags in the Irish Times. But ultimately both papers are disposable. Both serve up day-old news.

The iPad will see lower-priced competitors enter the market very soon. Maybe someone will develop an app that is optimised for reading from the screen, something like the Kindle or Sony Reader. It is likely that these devices will drop below the psychological price barrier to become portable consumer items.

Then, if I provide a free electronic newspaper, what will my business model look like?