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Newspapers on Tablets May Be Over-Hyped

by Allen Weiner  |  January 21, 2010  |  4 Comments

I must admit, as a former digital newspaper executive, I was caught up in the frenzy and promise that forthcoming tablet devices, from Apple, HP, etc.. would help print publishers and other “old media” sorts get off life support and into the black. While this is a topic we will examine in greater detail in forthcoming reports, let me offer a few points to consider before jumping on the bandwagon.

  1. What works for The New York Times does not necessarily work for the vast majority of metro daily newspapers. The Times, along with the FT, USA Today and Wall Street Journal (maybe The Washington Post) has a national, and in some cases, an international readership. Even in slowdown mode, these newspapers have R&D staffs and have vendors waiting in line to assist their new media efforts. Adobe, for example, was instrumental in moving The Times from a Microsoft-based desktop news reader to an Air-based reader. Smaller newspapers do not have the resources to take on the development required to create “killer apps” for new devices. In addition, larger audience reach allows a national/international to approach a larger total market of device owners while a newspaper in Dallas can realistically only target tablet owners in its own market.
  2. People may not pay for newspaper apps. Looking at the top 10 paid apps on the iTunes store shows games and entertainment but nothing resembling content. That said, few if any newspapers charge for their Smartphone apps Even if developers devise compelling apps for newspapers on tablets, there is still no evidence consumers will pay. If the apps merely take what exists today for Smartphone (which is little more than mobile-screen versions of Web content), newspapers will fail to seize this opportunity
  3. Consumers will not pay for a device, apps and a data fee. The latest word points to Verizon partnering with Apple for its tablet and we’re likely to see other wireless carriers partner with other tablet manufacturers. Unlike books, which IMHO don’t require wireless access, newspapers require ongoing connectivity to refresh content. Given the fact that WiFi coverage is not persistent, 3G access is needed to fully enable newspaper experiences. With carrier subsidies, consumers will have to pay wireless data plans which, in some cases, may either duplicate service plans or add another provider to a consumer’s monthly mix. It’s also doubtful I can use my wireless 3G adapter with some of the proposed tablets, making the wireless scenarios not very consumer friendly.

The list goes on, but let’s wait until hype turns into reality to see whether the opportunity for newspapers is true riches or fool’s gold.

Category: apple  publishing  

Tags: apple  apple-tablet  newspapers  publishing  verizon  

Allen Weiner
Research VP
7 years at Gartner
23 years IT industry

Allen Weiner shares insights on how to monetize digital marketing through commerce. His focus on “Commerce Everywhere” provides perspective on how social, mobile, search and emerging channels can be tapped to improve customer experiences and drive business results … Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Newspapers on Tablets May Be Over-Hyped

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Christy Pettey, Allen Weiner. Allen Weiner said: Newspapers on Tablets May Be Over-Hyped: I must admit, as a former digital newspaper executive, I was caught up i… […]

  2. Hiawatha Bray says:

    Care to contact me about tablet computing? Please call me ASAP. Thanks.

    Hiawatha Bray
    Technology Reporter
    Boston Globe
    P.O. Box 55819
    Boston, MA 02205-5819 USA
    135 Morrissey Blvd.
    Boston, MA 02125
    617-929-3119 voice
    617-929-3183 fax
    617-744-9067 Google Voice–reaches me anywhere
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  3. In the UK The Guardian’s iPhone app is now in the top 20 grossing applications in the store, which might be a sign that things could change. There is also a Jamie Oliver recipe app at number 10 right now, which is very much content. Books are 20% of app store releases (Flurry, last October), though it would be interesting to have a figure by sales; individually they are cheap and probably quite long tail but may add up. Will be interesting to see on the tablet how this pans out.

  4. Roy Fuchs says:

    A point that seems to be missed in explaining the success of the FT and WSJ is that not only is their audience affluent, but they are also two papers that many subscribers put on their expense accounts, so they are essentially a free good.

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