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The Media

Can the New Digital Readers Save the Newspapers? 289

Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that several companies plan to introduce digital newspaper readers by the end of the year with screens roughly the size of a standard sheet of paper to present much of the editorial and advertising content of traditional periodicals in generally the same format as they appear in print. Publishers hope the new readers may be a way to get consumers to pay for those periodicals — something they have been reluctant to do on the Web — while allowing publishers to save millions on the cost of printing and distributing their publications, at precisely a time when their businesses are under historic levels of pressure from the loss of readers and advertising. 'We are looking at this with a great deal of interest,' said John Ridding, the chief executive of the 121-year-old British newspaper The Financial Times. 'The severe double whammy of the recession and the structural shift to the Internet has created an urgency that has rightly focused attention on these devices.' The new tablets will start with some serious shortcomings: the screens, which are currently in the Kindle and Sony Reader, display no color or video and update images at a slower rate than traditional computer screens. But many think the E-ink readers are simply too little, too late and have not appeared in time to save the troubled realm of print media. 'If these devices had been ready for the general consumer market five years ago, we probably could have taken advantage of them quickly,' said Roger Fidler, the program director for digital publishing at the University of Missouri, Columbia. 'Now the earliest we might see large-scale consumer adoption is next year, and unlike the iPod it's going to be a slower process migrating people from print to the device.'"
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Can the New Digital Readers Save the Newspapers?

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  • Standardization (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MBCook ( 132727 ) <> on Monday May 04, 2009 @10:31AM (#27815525) Homepage

    Yes. Because nothing will boost readership like each newspaper requiring it's own custom $300 reader that doesn't work for any of the other newspapers or books.

    Just make it work on the popular readers out there (at this point that's the Kindle and the Sony devices). Amazon is rumored to release a new Kindle with a bigger screen on Wednesday (they've got a press conference announced).

    • e-Reader: $300 Newspaper: 50 cents. I know which one I'm more likely to buy...
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward


      • Re:Standardization (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Monday May 04, 2009 @10:46AM (#27815719)

        e-Reader: $300
        Newspaper: 50 cents.

        I know which one I'm more likely to buy...

        According to current trends: neither.

      • Re:Standardization (Score:5, Insightful)

        by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Monday May 04, 2009 @10:54AM (#27815815) Journal

        My newspaper costs over $360 for a year's subscription.

        If I get it via some kind of branded device, how many free years will they give me? Even one is cost effective for me, assuming I don't care about color pictures or the comics.

        • Re:Standardization (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MBCook ( 132727 ) <> on Monday May 04, 2009 @11:02AM (#27815913) Homepage

          Good point. A real subscription to WSJ or NYT is not cheap. But keeping current subscribers isn't really the problem, is it? It would be much better (financially) to get some old subscribers back, or even new subscribers.

          The cost argument is very good, but I don't want 3-4 eReaders, each that only works on one paper. That's just a hassle.

          Then there is the up-front cost. Right now I can buy my local paper only on Sundays, or when I see an interesting story. But very few people will front the $360 unless they are very committed. If they are that committed, they probably already subscribe. But you can't get rid of the paper edition, because how would you attract new readers when the price of starting goes from $1.50 to $360? You have to keep print, so you won't be able to cut costs too much.

          • Re:Standardization (Score:4, Insightful)

            by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Monday May 04, 2009 @11:27AM (#27816191) Homepage

            The cost argument is very good, but I don't want 3-4 eReaders, each that only works on one paper. That's just a hassle.

            Right. I would definitely think the business model should be to standardize on a single reader (or better yet, a specification that different manufacturers can meet), and then subsidize the cost of the reader, sort of like cell phones. Buy subscriptions to the WSJ and NYT, get a free e-reader.

            Even giving away a $300 device, the publishers will save money in the long term by not having to actually print and deliver things-- given either a long enough timeline or a large enough number of subscriptions per device.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Korin43 ( 881732 )
              Or they could all just use a format that can be read on ANY e-reader.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          You'd get a better product hitting their web page with your iPhone. The half-assed pdf-esque digital format papers aren't worth the subscription price.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by infosinger ( 769408 )
        New York Times per issue price is going to be over $2.00 and $5-$6 on Sundays. If they can send you the e-issue for let's say $.50 and $2.00 respectively the $300 pays off in a year or less. I think the big reader, however, is going to be over $500. I own a Kindle, and its use for short article periodicals (such as a newpaper) leaves a lot to desire. The key advantage of a newspaper is that you can glance and decide what to read very quickly--this doesn't happen easily on an e-reader. For this reason,
    • Re:Standardization (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday May 04, 2009 @10:33AM (#27815551) Journal
      Just think like a media executive: stop thinking about how you are going to attract customers, and instead just fantasize about how you are going to lock them in. "It's not proprietary, it's exclusive!"
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      +1 Insightful, please!

      This move will drive newspapers consumption even further into the ground.

      I always say this, if traditional printed newspapers want to survive the digital age, all they need to do is go 100% ad-sponsored and distribute it to the public for FREE. Much cheaper than developing some proprietary shit hat ony runs on some shit, which you have to spend a shit load of money to get.
      • Re:Standardization (Score:4, Insightful)

        by maxume ( 22995 ) on Monday May 04, 2009 @10:44AM (#27815689)

        Advertisers are more interested in people who bothered to subscribe or buy something, they figure they will actually look at it.

        That doesn't mean that they won't buy ads in free papers, but they won't pay as much if you don't have some sort of reasonable proof that there is reader interest in your publication.

      • Re:Standardization (Score:5, Insightful)

        by eln ( 21727 ) on Monday May 04, 2009 @10:50AM (#27815773)

        There have been free ad-supported newspapers out there for decades. None of them make the kind of money the subscription-based ones do even today, so why would you think a free model would work better?

        For the reasons noted by the other reply to your post, advertisers will pay a much lower rate for ads in a free paper than in a paper people have to pay for. This means that in a free newspaper you'll have to have a much higher advertisement-to-content ratio, and even then you're not likely to make enough money to sustain any more than a few reporters, which means the quality of your content will suffer.

        The free newspaper market is crowded and low margin, even more so than the subscriber-based newspaper market. Going that route will only accelerate the decline.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by xaxa ( 988988 )

        if traditional printed newspapers want to survive the digital age, all they need to do is go 100% ad-sponsored and distribute it to the public for FREE.

        At least here in London, the quality of the news in the free newspapers is much worse than if you buy one. Not everyone wants to read about who some celebrity slept with last night.

        I've not bought a newspaper for years. The only time I read them is if I find a quality paper left on a train.

        I do have a subscription to New Scientist though, and I read some stories from a quality newspaper's web site most days, but I miss out on things like editorial comment, letters, and local news.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by hedwards ( 940851 )

          The newspaper industry has been in disarray ever since the Weekly World News went under. Why on earth can't you find that kind of quality journalism anywhere other than Fox?

      • by Hatta ( 162192 )

        At least here in Omaha, the two free weeklies are much better reading than the World Herald. Yeah, the focus is on local politics and arts coverage, but still they manage to bring in some syndicated investigative reporting. Between listening to NPR daily for national and world news, and reading a free weekly for local coverage, I stay pretty well informed. I'm not sure I'd lose much if the traditional newspaper died.

      • Re:Standardization (Score:5, Informative)

        by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <> on Monday May 04, 2009 @11:35AM (#27816279) Journal

        You don't know what you're talking about. Papers have had digital format editions of the paper product for years (Knight Ridder did theirs corporate-wide in '05). Trying to push those (hilariously undersubscribed) editions using portable readers doesn't cost them anything.

        It's a waste of time though. Bad pictures, no color...Hell, it'll look worse than the paper product.

        And, as for going completely ad supported, it's not going to happen. The village voice can pull it off, and dinky little entertainment papers with 10,000 circ can pull it off, but they do it by having an extremely small permanent staff and practically zero physical plant.

        I ran a weekly with 20,000 circ for a couple of years, and we were quite popular, but our margins were high enough to support more than 5 or 6 permanent staff, and we couldn't afford to pay our stringers more than a pittance. I work as a regional IT guy for two papers now (50,000 and 75,000 circ, respectively)

        Each paper employs 30+ staff who do nothing but gather news, and that is down from the 50+ glory days when we could afford to send someone to every government meeting, and cover all our outlying coverage areas with their own reporters, and crap like that...Crap that makes a good product.

        Without permanent employees, you lose all the benefits of working sources, you lose all the specialized knowledge of the area, and knowledge of the people who will and will not talk on the record...Hell, if you're not a full timer, you probably don't even know who to call.

        And that's just reporters. Add in the ad people, the finance people, and, in your fantasy world, the production people (you won't even be able to pay for the paper edition on your ad revenue, so just give that one up), and you have a business that'll cost about 70% more than you can make with ads alone, even wicked expensive publication-of-record print ads.

        Drop the print product, and your shortfall drops to about 20% (print is about 80% of your costs, but print ads are MUCH more lucrative than online ads, so ditching the print hurts your ad revenue as well). After that, you're cutting meat and bone. You need finance to collect your ad money and do your books, you need ad people to get your ads and deal with your ad customers, and you need journalists and designers to put up the actual product.

        Basically, they need to find a way to make up those costs. Maybe ditching the office space. Maybe centralizing your finance people. Plenty of companies would love to do your ads for you (like Google) but they'll take their pound of flesh, and that's probably more than you'd lose if you did it yourself.

        THAT, is how it can be done. Fucking armchair wanker. I can't believe all the people who think they have the answer.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gwait ( 179005 )

      No because nothing will boost readership like a device that tries to charge customers for content to compete with the free internet and its millions of web pages, blogs and users.

      It's a small handful of people who would actually want to carry around another $300 widget that is only used to read books and newspapers and offers far less functionality than a $300 netbook class computer.

      It's not even a done deal that netbook class makes any sense. You can actually read reasonably well on an ipod touch (and by e

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by postbigbang ( 761081 )

        The browser makes a crappy newspaper. Various e-readers have a chance, especially if I can mix my local paper with the NYT, the WSJ, SFC, and maybe /. for breakfast. Add in my comics. Put it on my cable bill. I'm sold-- and happy I don't have to haul sacks of dead trees to a recycler.

    • Amazons Reader won't even read all of Amazons own formats. Remember Amazon bought Mobipocket yet Kindle won't read Mobipocket DRM protected files.

      And then you expect them to read other companies formats? You must be kidding.


    • by Rolgar ( 556636 )

      I'd really like to see integration between RSS (through Google Reader) and portable devices. Sit at the computer for a few minutes (or eventually have the computer be smart enough to figure out on it's own which things you actually read from your list of feeds), and have the computer push the content you want to the reader. Then you can read at the table while you eat your breakfast the way so you can multitask.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by SkyDude ( 919251 )
      This is an interesting thread, but all the posters are missing an important point. Whether the newspaper is printed on dead trees, downloaded onto a reader or appears as an apparition in the sky, it's not the delivery of the news that's the problem.

      The newspapers are failing because they no longer generate the income from advertisements [] from auto dealers, real estate brokers and large retailers that have pulled back on their advertising due to the US economy sucking wind. In many papers, these categories
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 04, 2009 @10:32AM (#27815539)

    This is why recessions aren't always bad. Some of these old companies will only do something novel when they absolutely have to. Otherwise, it's business as usual.

  • by N8F8 ( 4562 ) on Monday May 04, 2009 @10:33AM (#27815555)

    Give me a reader for $80 and maybe. $300? Screw that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Better yet, a $300 reader for the NYT, a $250 reader for the local paper, a $450 reader for Condé Nast publications, a $200 reader put out by a consortium of alternative weeklies...

      Any publisher-proprietary reader over $99, probably even $49, will die. And the balance sheets showing scores of unsold, low-margin/high-cost devices won't be a pretty sight, either.

      • buy enough of those over-priced readers and you can make a Beowulf cluster of them, too bad they wont do anything other than display text & graphics
  • by I.M.O.G. ( 811163 ) <> on Monday May 04, 2009 @10:34AM (#27815569) Homepage

    with screens roughly the size of a standard sheet of paper to present much of the editorial and advertising content of traditional periodicals in generally the same format as they appear in print.

    Outside of those carrying briefcases or backpacks, who wants to carry around a papersized piece of equipment to read old-fashioned news. Shouldn't they be focusing on a cheaper kindle-like device, since that has shown some acceptance in the marketplace?

    Theres a lot to be said for a newspaper which can be rolled up or folded to take with you. Size is important for this sort of media.

    • by langelgjm ( 860756 ) on Monday May 04, 2009 @10:44AM (#27815693) Journal

      I would say the reason smaller devices have been accepted in the marketplace is because there are almost no larger devices.

      As a grad student who's just finished a master's degree, and is about to start down the long path to a PhD, I know I'm going to have to read a zillion PDFs - journal articles, scanned chapters of books, working papers from repositories, etc. I really want an ebook/digital reader, but I'm reluctant.

      The only large-screen device I can find is the iRex DR-1000. It's got a 1024x1280 10" display, so much larger than the standard 600x800 of most readers. That would be great for PDFs. There's also a version with a stylus that allows for direct annotation on the screen. Fantastic.

      Downside? It's about $900, has been reported to have battery life problems, and people give very mixed reviews to the firmware. Aside from the iRex, there's nothing else in this category (or if there is, please let me know!).

      If someone made a larger, hi-res competitor to the DR-1000, and it cost maybe $500-$700, you might see more interest in larger readers. But right now, iRex has no competition.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by I.M.O.G. ( 811163 )

        If someone made a larger, hi-res competitor to the DR-1000, and it cost maybe $500-$700, you might see more interest in larger readers. But right now, iRex has no competition.

        I'd wager your the exception however and there isn't a critical mass of consumers looking for a product to meet the needs you have. iRex has no competition in this area, but yet their reader hasn't been much of a success. The lack of options is a symptom of demand, not supply in my opinion.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by maxume ( 22995 )

          The fact that a $100, roughly paper sized, highly legible, long battery life, great software containing device isn't on the market probably has quite a lot to do with it not being possible right now.

          I'm pretty sure such a device would sell millions and millions of units.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Brandee07 ( 964634 )

            The 600x800 screen costs $60 (

            Amazon, Sony, iRex all get their screens from the SAME manufacturer, E Ink.

            $100 eBook devices are probably in our future, but only after E Ink (or some competitor) gets their economies of scale in place and can significantly lower manufacturing costs.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by nine-times ( 778537 )

        I agree. There's definitely a part of me that would like to see a reader that could render a full-sized 8.5"x11" page (or European equivalent). That might not be the easiest to carry around or even the most efficient reading size, but it'd be nice to be able to print a document to a normal PDF formatted for normal printing, throw it on my e-book reader, and go.

        But ok, maybe that's too big by several measures. Still, I have a larger point: the display sizes for these things shouldn't be based on conformi

        • The resolution is important, though, because it's a matter of how much readable text you can fit on the screen at one time.

          The Kindle and Sony readers seem fine for reading paper-back style e-books. Paperbacks are fairly small anyway, and the text can be wrapped or whatever to fit the screen. But for someone who wants to read PDFs, many of which may be image-based (i.e., scans, perhaps with underlying text or not), that text can't be wrapped. Higher resolution means being able to see the entire page (or eve

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by stei7766 ( 1359091 )

        I'm in the exact same boat, and I would like to quit killing trees to read articles...but the LCD hurts my eyes!

        Heck, I might be willing to pay 900 bucks for the DR-1000 if it had decent reviews, but as you mentioned they are very mixed.

        I know lots and lots of academics who would pay the same.

    • by MBCook ( 132727 )

      I'd think 8.5"x11" would be pretty good, as long as the device was about that size (not +2" on each side, keyboard, etc).

      Of course, this is the preverbal deck chairs on the Titanic. The problem with newspapers isn't the paper. Sure paper is expensive (compared to digital bits), and big and a bit of a hassle compared to a theoretical eBook (ignore preference). But changing the medium won't work.

      The content is already out there. It's on the web. I can get new news faster. Half the stuff in many papers comes s

    • by garcia ( 6573 ) on Monday May 04, 2009 @11:10AM (#27815987)

      Shouldn't they be focusing on a cheaper kindle-like device, since that has shown some acceptance in the marketplace?

      They should be concentrating on delivering the news to people in the format that they want it delivered in. People are already long beyond the point where someone else telling us how to get our information is going to work. I want my news via RSS that I can read on my phone and any multitude of other machines I'm using throughout the day. I do NOT want to purchase ANOTHER device to read news from one source.

      The newspaper industry continues to amaze me. When they are failing, and failing hard, instead of finding a way to work within the boundaries of what people want and are already utilizing, these companies are trying to get people to go back to reading what is basically the same thing that put them out of business in the first place.

  • by aaarrrgggh ( 9205 ) on Monday May 04, 2009 @10:35AM (#27815579)

    The newspapers are doomed. Their focus is to be able to get the same revenue for ads with a bigger device. They completely miss the point. They think that "giving away content" on the internet was their biggest mistake.

    In reality, their biggest mistake was not containing costs 10 years ago (slowly) to reflect the structural shift of information to a different medium.

    I used to have a subscription to the Wall Street Journal, which gave me both dead-tree and online information. While the content was ok at first, when NewsCorp destroyed the editorial content it was no longer worth the effort. Only about 10% of the dead-tree editions would be read because the format was unwieldy at the desk.

    They need to bring costs in-line and generate quality content at the same time. (No, I didn't say it was easy.) There isn't a top-line solution that will make them viable long-term. Look no farther than ad rates to understand the limited value that the papers can generate for most of their advertisers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by value_added ( 719364 )

      Look no farther than ad rates to understand the limited value that the papers can generate for most of their advertisers.

      Maybe you missed this part

      Publishers could possibly use these new mobile reading devices to hit the reset button and return in some form to their original business model: selling subscriptions, and supporting their articles with ads.

      A subscription-based model on custom displays with the ad-supported web edition available for the masses sounds like a win-win situation, no?

    • by vivek7006 ( 585218 ) on Monday May 04, 2009 @11:11AM (#27815989) Homepage

      WSJ gives free access to premium content if you are being redirected from google, facebook, digg etc. Here is a dirty little secret. The entire content on WSJ is available to you for free, if you can trick WSJ into believing that you have been directed to their webpage via!

      Step1) Use firefox
      Step2) Install refspoof []
      Step3) Install greasemonkey []
      Step4) Install this script in greasemonkey []
      Step5) Profit!!

    • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday May 04, 2009 @11:35AM (#27816283)

      In reality, their biggest mistake was not containing costs 10 years ago (slowly) to reflect the structural shift of information to a different medium

      No, their biggest mistake was not focusing on what their ink on paper product can do that new mediums like the internet can not do. Cars do not have "car-type buggy whips". The whip manufacturers have moved on to entirely new fields of endeavor mostly not involving transportation. Ink on paper newspapers have to do the same.

      They have lost the "textual news/agitprop" business by being obsolete. OK fine. Now what can you do with ink on paper that a computer cannot do.

      The average inet user supposedly has a 14 inch monitor running 800x600 or whatever. On the other hand a newspaper can print out freaking huge graphics if they want. Take advantage of that.

      1) Show the news in graphical form on a map. I'd like a map of all "major" road construction projects each day. Oh, and gimme a big ole map with all police/fire/ambulance activity marked and maybe a short comment. And I'd like maps for activities going on over the next couple days, you know, like festival here, museum thing here, etc. Maybe mix and match so you get a couple pages of maps, one for each day yesterday, today, and one for each day going a couple days in the future.

      2) Do some news in big ole timelines. Not a simplistic lame graph, but something big and cool.

      3) Giant pages of tabular data. Gimme a TV-guide grid style listing of all local movie theaters and what they're showing at each time. Take advantage of those huge pages!

      4) Whatever you do, don't screw up the giant comics pages and giant TV schedule grids. Err, thats exactly what they're doing, so cut it out.

      5) A page needs to be devoted to kids coloring projects, etc.

      6) Stop distributing text products and go graphical. Any website can provide a textual astrology report. But only a newspaper can provide a daily giant 1 foot on a side astrological reading thingy. Yes I know astrology is for fools, but the point remains that some data needs to go graphical. Years ago, last time I read a paper, I recall seeing a regular column of bridge tournament puzzle things that was done entirely in text... Geeze guys go graphical.

      7) Focus on stuff that can't be done online very conveniently, like crosswords, wordsearchs, etc. Anything that involves scribbling on the paper (as opposed to scribbling on the monitor)

      8) get some "only in physical paper" features. Don't care what it is, pictures of attractive people, dilbert cartoons, oragami patterns, paper airplane patterns, silly picture frames, funny flowcharts, or whatever, but you gotta orient it around encouraging the readers to cut it out of the paper, then stick it on the cube wall or do something with the cutout. Can't do that online (well, yeah you can print out, but this thing is already printed out...) You may need better paper and printing than cruddy old newsprint.

      Another thing they could do is find bloggy info and push the limits of fair use by quoting them. The only useful information is on blogs now... the problem is its buried under junk. Find the good stuff and highlight it in the paper.

      Finally, if there is one special industrial connection that newspapers have, its the book publishing industry. So, in each daily paper, publish 5 minutes worth of reading of some hot new novel. Your options are subscribe to the paper to read the whole thing 5 minutes at a time, or cough up the bucks at Amazon to read it all today. I think this will burn up alot of paper space, but if it brings in the readers... Do fiction and nonfiction. I'd think an appropriate nonfiction would be Galbraith's 1929 Great Depression, or for a paper with real guts, how about "the creature from jekyll island"

      Instead of doing something special or unique with their media, they are trying to do the same old thing but cheaper... that isn't going to work in the long run.

    • In reality, their biggest mistake was not containing costs 10 years ago (slowly) to reflect the structural shift of information to a different medium.

      I would argue that the biggest mistake of newspapers was the opposite, its not that they did too little to contain costs but that they did too much (or, at least, too much of the wrong things), and thereby eliminated much of their value at the time where they had a whole host of new competition. Newspapers made themselves irrelevant through cut backs in the ne

  • by jeffb (2.718) ( 1189693 ) on Monday May 04, 2009 @10:35AM (#27815595)

    ...until we get foldable, rollable e-displays.

    I mean, if I can't just pull it out from under the birdcage and roll up the dirt inside it, the way I do with today's print newspapers, it's really not going to work out very well for me.

  • Modern Revolution? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cashman73 ( 855518 ) on Monday May 04, 2009 @10:41AM (#27815657) Journal
    I think when the history books are finally written fifty to one-hundred years from now, that we'll see this is a modern revolution: the media revolution. These things happen every now and then throughout history. While they ultimately bring about major changes in how we do things, they certainly don't happen overnight. But this media revolution is changing the entire face of how we handle and use information, whether it be print, radio, television, internet, music, movies. We've already seen how the music industry, and to some extent, Hollywood, has reacted to this -- though that's only the tip of the iceberg. Mass media corporations and agencies that can adapt to the changes that we are and will be experiencing, will continue to be in business. Those that can't adapt, will fold. Charles Darwin came up with a few words for this: "Survival of the Fittest."
    • Mass media corporations and agencies that can adapt to the changes that we are and will be experiencing, will continue to be in business.

      More than likely none of them will exist in any form we recognise today. E-reader devices--even relatively successful ones like the Kindle--are stopgap measures that only serve to prolong an obsolete business model in the face of new technology. They are this generation's version of the electronic typewriter.

      Personal computers became practical options for a large-enough market to achieve critical mass in the 1970s, yet typewriter companies soldiered on for near around two decades trying to prop up their o

  • by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) on Monday May 04, 2009 @10:42AM (#27815663) Homepage Journal

    advertising content of traditional periodicals in generally the same format as they appear in print. Publishers hope the new readers may be a way to get readers to pay for those

    I'm willing to pay for content OR to have it infested with ads. Not both.

    They want to have my cake and eat it too. This is why I can't wait for these businesses to crash and burn.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      You have that wrong.

      They not only want your cake, and Eat it as well.

      They also want to sock you in the kidneys and when you double over they go around behind and kick you in the Jimmies when you least expect it.

      Honestly, Media companies hate the consumer.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Honestly, Media companies hate the consumer.

        No, they don't hate the consumer, they think the consumer is stupid and needs to be led by the hand(and frequently lied to) to see what is in his best interest. Of course that is a large part of why they are failing, the consumer says, "We want X, Y and Z. We don't want A, B, or C." The media companies respond, "No, no you really do want A, B, and C. And why would anybody be interested in X, Y and Z. Here, buy A, B and C from us." Then, they yell loudly as fewer and fewer buy their product.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Gizzmonic ( 412910 )

      I'm willing to pay for content OR to have it infested with ads. Not both.

      They want to have my cake and eat it too. This is why I can't wait for these businesses to crash and burn.

      We are talking about the traditional newspaper approach. Ads pay the bills, subscribers just defray some costs. Although people around here seem to think print media is dead, I think it's more accurate to say that huge print conglomerates are dying. Small town local newspapers are still making money. Heck, even some of the larg

    • My friend, you almost nailed it - ads or subscription, but not both. Here's the part that I think that you've left out:

      They have the same distribution model as for-pay TV: it's a bundle, whether you want it or not. Just finance? Just the cooking section? Just sports? Just local news? Just national or international news? No way - you have to take the whole thing.

      Now, cable and satellite have us bent over, but we've rebelled against the papers. Want a story or subject of interest? It's on the web, it

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Red Flayer ( 890720 )

      I'm willing to pay for content OR to have it infested with ads. Not both.

      That is how you feel, that's fine. But the truth is, some level of advertising is acceptable to most people even when they pay for content. Advertising can help subsidize the cost of the content, thus allowing people to spend less to receive the same content -- so the publisher can get more people to pay if they charge less.

      The question is, at what point do the drawbacks of including advertising outweigh the cost savings that incl

  • I would never get a newspaper. The only things of value to me in a newspaper are the comics, the crossword and sudoku, and possibly the movie listings. Other than that, it is a giant waste of paper. The news I get from the TV and radio, I don't care about sports scores, or stock quotes, or obituaries. Besides, the cost of a regular home delivery newspaper would be about the same as an internet hookup. So, what's the point of a newspaper, other than collecting special issues and lining bird cages?
    • I would never get a newspaper. The only things of value to me in a newspaper are the comics, the crossword and sudoku, and possibly the movie listings.

      You do realize that all four are available on the Internet for free, in far wider and deeper variety than any one newspaper could possibly carry, right?

  • by Tridus ( 79566 ) on Monday May 04, 2009 @10:44AM (#27815685) Homepage

    I'd be interested in this, provided it's on a device I can use for other things (like a Kindle, I don't want a newspaper only reader), and it can get the paper wirelessly every morning. If those two things are true, I'd likely transfer my dead tree subscription over to the digital one, which saves the newspaper the cost of printing and delivering a paper to me every day (which are substantial costs).

    Of course, right now the Kindle doesn't really work in Canada at all, so that's a pipe dream for me at the moment.

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Monday May 04, 2009 @10:46AM (#27815717) Homepage Journal

    Newspapers used to add value. Once upon a time, people who worked for newspapers actually wrote articles. In fact, papers had writers on staff who could be counted on to keep delivering articles that someone might want to read. Now, all the articles come from wire services. So while you might think the situation is bad because one company owns all the papers in your hometown, the situation is actually completely and totally fucked because every significant article in your paper comes from one of a small handful of news agencies.

    It is true that major, important articles still come from newspapers, even corporate ones like the New York Times, or the Los Angeles Times. We will all be the less when newspapers are gone, and we have less news sources. But on a day to day basis, the average consumer could do without them. They can get the news from the wire sources directly, and at the point where they are using a computer to read the news, their news-reading device can do content aggregation and filtering for them. I wouldn't recommend it to any average person, but for the technically literate it is possible today to fairly trivially create your own Slashdot-like news site with automatically aggregated content, comments and/or forums, spam filtering, OpenID et cetera using LAMP with Drupal... using only published modules. And if you just bought a tablet, you could run it on the device. The only things missing from this plan are the e-Ink display and the ease of use (including the pretty interface... but you could probably do that in the browser too, with some jQuery effects.)

    There are probably even easier recipes for doing the same thing. The simplest (from the actual implementation standpoint) is to just use the RSS functionality in Firefox or similar. But firefox isn't exactly optimized for use on that kind of display... My current goal is getting Angstrom Linux working on my WebDT 366. I got it to build but then the kernel was apparently built for i686 somehow, even though I specified Geode LX. So far OpenEmbedded is kicking my ass :(

    • by pzs ( 857406 ) on Monday May 04, 2009 @10:55AM (#27815833)

      Ben Goldacre had it right. []

      The thing that bothers me with newspaper and TV news is that many stories need information from a specialist and they insist on putting a non-specialist, a journalist, between you and the person who knows what they're talking about.

      In scientific stories, you always get a 3 minute story with an idiot dressed in a lab-coat dumbing down the message of a professor or medic, followed by a measly 10 second snippet with the actual expert. Of course experts won't always speak in the most media friendly way possible - so coach them! Edit the interview until it makes sense! But don't feed them through a non-comprehending cipher.

      It really is reaching the stage where the best way to get the information is to find a decent blog from somebody who actually works in that field.

      • You seem to think that the purpose of news is to inform the audience. This hasn't been the case for at least a decade. It is just there to sell ad space.

      • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Monday May 04, 2009 @12:01PM (#27816673) Homepage

        Ben Goldacre had it right. []

        That's a pretty good list, especially 1, 4, and 5.

        It does seem to me that large newspapers are having trouble on the web because they don't seem to understand the differences of what the "new media" has to offer. I don't got to the NYT website to read my news, I come to Slashdot or Digg, who might possibly link to the NYT. Why is that?

        Well, first because they're offering a broader selection of news. Second and more importantly, Slashdot provides a good discussion system for me to talk about the story. It gives a place where people, sometimes with equal or greater expertise than those writing the story, can comment, either supporting the conclusions of the article or picking them apart. There's added depth.

        And this is where the biggest value of this "new media" comes in: there aren't real space limitations. You can put up all your content, as much as you have, in any number of combinations, permutations, and sorted in any number of ways, all at the same time. You can have a good discussion system, and people who aren't interested in it can choose not to visit it. If you have a scientific issue and you have two different experts with differing opinions, you can have the dumbed-down synopsis of the debate written by a journalist, but you can also allow each expert to write their own argument and publish them alongside the journalist's story.

        The only real expense for these things is in editing or moderating, which I think probably can be done in a cost-effective way.

    • We will all be the less when newspapers are gone, and we have less news sources. But on a day to day basis, the average consumer could do without them. They can get the news from the wire sources directly, ...

      I suggest you enumerate the sources of reporting that will exist once newspapers are gone. I think that most people who do that go a little pale after doing so.

      The thing is, we might not like the format of newspapers, and we might not even care about the reporting that often. But if politicians and c

      • by pzs ( 857406 )

        That depends what you mean by "reporters". What about Guido Fawkes []? HuffPo []? Crooks and Liars []? None of these are newspapers and yet they all contain hard hitting journalism and telling the truth to power. They link to newspapers, yes, but this is only a small portion of their source content.

    • I picked up a foreign newspaper in one of my travels. Fully 50% of the articles were op-ed pieces written by experts on the subject. I left it in the coffee room at work and many weeks later people were still reading it with interest. Contrast this with your average daily, filled up with newswire reports, which no one wants to read the day after (as Mark Twain said "there is nothing older than yesterday's newspaper").

      The "Dailies" are on the way out. Insightful, investigative journalism (a la NYT, Guardian,

  • by wonkavader ( 605434 ) on Monday May 04, 2009 @10:48AM (#27815741)

    "...unlike the iPod it's going to be a slower process migrating people from print to the device."

    What? Why in Heaven's name would Roger say that? If these come out at $50, come with a library of great books (all free from Gutenberg et al.), and allow you to put whatever you like on them in some open format which the FOSS community can create converters for, why wouldn't it blow the iPOD sales records out of the water?

    And there's no reason for them to charge more than $50. They spend the price of a Kindle printing newspapers on every subscriber every year. They can sell it for $50 with a one-year subscription to two newspapers, or give it to anyone who has been a subscriber (showing a pattern of reading) for more than two years.

    The difference between this sort of thing and the Kindle or the iPod is striking. Those were both created to sell downloads, and thus try to cripple you from doing anything other than buy from Amazon or iTunes. This proposed reader is a desperate attempt to move off of an expensive process (printing papers) and onto a cheap one.

    The Kindle and the iPod are designed to wring more and more money out of the consumer. These are designed to preserve a revenue stream from an advertiser. One is designed to entrance and restrict, the other to entrance and keep entranced, whatever small cost is needed to accomplish that.

    If the newspapers don't make this thing explode such that EVERYBODY has one by the end of the first year, it'll be because of gross incompetence (which I'm still betting on, unfortunately) or lack of ability to produce enough of them.

    • If these come out at $50, come with a library of great books (all free from Gutenberg et al.), and allow you to put whatever you like on them in some open format which the FOSS community can create converters for, why wouldn't it blow the iPOD sales records out of the water?

      Because most people like to listen to music and/or watch movies and/or play games. Many fewer people like to read newspapers and books.

    • Have you taken into account the change that these will invoke in user experience? ipods came out when there was already many portable mp3 players available (but I think mine at that time could only hold 64 megs). Even if you didn't have an mp3 player, you were probably used to portable music players. This isn't true with e-readers. People are not used to downloading the paper to a device and using it again and again. They pick up the paper (from driveway, store, stand or whatever) read and discard. No
      • "If it's that easy I look forward to seeing the wonkavader e-reader out by 2010 and in the hands of everyone."

        Oh! for the budget of these newspapers. Oh! how I'd LOVE to be running that project. Heck yeah!

        As for change of experience, I wonder if there are sales numbers as to how many people had a portable MP3 player before they bought an iPod. We had them, sure, but we're the techies who love such things.

    • Other than the cost of parts being around $200 per unit.

      • They spend more like $300 a year on printing the paper for a $20 subscription. They already take a bath on every subscriber they need to print the paper for. That's why these are intended to save the industry -- they reduce costs. Your subscription doesn't pay for the paper, ads do. There's no reason a longtime subscriber should pay anything for such a device. If it's $200 to make (I suspect it will be more) and they give it to you and stop printing your paper, they just MADE $100 bucks.

        So $50 to peopl

    • If these come out at $50, come with a library of great books (all free from Gutenberg et al.), and allow you to put whatever you like on them in some open format which the FOSS community can create converters for, why wouldn't it blow the iPOD sales records out of the water?

      Just about fell out of my chair when I read that one. Very witty, subtle sense of humour you have there, so much so you've been modded "informative".

      I'll laugh almost as hard when newspapers start going into receivership after sinking millions in borrowed funds into the development of an overpriced, single-purpose reader to serve DRM-encumbered, proprietary-formatted content to its readers, followed by more millions on RIAA-style litigation to suppress hacker communities who try to jailbreak the devices.


  • by uncreativeslashnick ( 1130315 ) on Monday May 04, 2009 @10:58AM (#27815857)
    The current generation of newspapers is carrying an infrastructure designed to deal with distribution issues from 100 years ago. We have literally hundreds of newspapers in the U.S., with dozens that are considered "newspapers of record" or major players. In an age when information is instant, and you don't have to wait for dead trees to get delivered to your doorstep to get it, there's just too many news sources.

    Does anyone else think it odd that the white house press room is filled with reporters? 3 or 4 reporters could do the same job as the 20 or 30 that pack that news room. I also find it funny that most of the major newspapers carry substantially the same stories. It's all very redundant, because it's designed to be distributed locally in an age when that delivery process took an entire day, and delivering over longer distances was not feasible for a daily paper.

    The major newspapers will mostly die or consolidate. Technology has made redundant having a major newspaper with all its attendant printing machinery, reporters, staff, etc. in every major city. Certainly there will be a market for a few major newspapers, but not the sheer number we have today.

    I don't think it's the end of the world scenario that people are painting it to be, either. We'll still have multiple sources of info (I suspect the NY Times and Wall Street journal for instance will survive, along with a multitude of local news outlets and other media outlets like cable news networks and bloggers), there just won't be the increadible multiplicity we have today.
    • Does anyone else think it odd that the white house press room is filled with reporters? 3 or 4 reporters could do the same job as the 20 or 30 that pack that news room.

      I think that there should be more reporters in there (and asking more hard-hitting questions). The press is the unofficial fourth branch. 3-4 people are easier to bribe/coerce than 40-50(400-500) people.

  • by RichMan ( 8097 ) on Monday May 04, 2009 @11:04AM (#27815931)

    Newspapers should offer wireless enabled ebooks with 1 or 2 year subscriptions.

    The newspaper will save on print and distribution costs.
    People will still be able to read the news with breakfast.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Brandee07 ( 964634 )

      Kindle newspapers have monthly subscriptions, with wireless delivery. The lack of ads is wonderful.

  • Would the classic newspaper model really work on a subscription digital newspaper, considering that half the newspaper's pages (sometimes more) is wall to wall ads? And that's not even counting the classifieds, ads paid for by the subscribers themselves!
  • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Monday May 04, 2009 @11:16AM (#27816059) Homepage Journal

    I got a Kindle and an iPod Touch for Christmas from my wife. I loved the kindle but it is just a little big to carry around. When Amazon came out with the Kindle reader for the the iPhone/iPod Touch I tried it out. Guess what it is wonderful. I always have my iPod Touch in my pocket. I use it it to read a lot more than I do my Kindle. At home I may use my Kindle but the Touch is just too handy.
    It is the next gen of smart phones that you need to put news papers on. AT&T no has the Nokia E71x smart phone for only $99. Even "feature" phones are getting pretty dang smart these days. Soon everybody will have a Palm WebOS, iPhone, Blackberry, Android, S60, or for those poor souls Windows Mobile device. The question still will be how will they make money? Will people be willing to pay or will ads work?

  • by ducomputergeek ( 595742 ) on Monday May 04, 2009 @11:17AM (#27816067)

    The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. We always had a subscription and I used to read it in the morning before going to school. Well, skimmed major articles, and looked at the comics and sports pages mostly, but the daily newspaper was fairly thick and had a decent metro section.

    Well, year after year it kept getting thinner and thinner with more generic articles purchased from Ruters or the AP. In the past 5 years my Dad and I can think of a single major multi-part story they did on the corruption going on in local fire protection districts. It was a damn interesting read and something people needed to know about (like how many wives were on fire boards voting for pay increases, etc..) But that was one investigation in 5 years. Meanwhile the business section was cut down to the top local stocks and that was the death nail. Why pay $0.35 a day for the same wire stories you had already read online and he can go to the website and get the local sports stories.

    If they brought back more local investigations and reported more about what was going on around town, you know have content that was interesting and worth reading, he'd get a subscription.

    I think news magazines are in the same boat. Time, Newsweek, etc. all seem to be thinner than I remember once upon a time. It's gotten to the point where the only ones I read on a regular basis are The Economist and Der Speigel when I can find a copy.

  • so the specs are like this: it must be like a computer, but not as functional, and roughly as expensive as say a Netbook. It just seems like newspapers are dying of natural selection.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday May 04, 2009 @11:32AM (#27816251) Homepage

    Exercise: buy a newspaper and throw out all the sections that are 100% marketing. Entire sections, like Autos, Real Estate, and Wine (Wine?) go into the dumpster. The classified sections can go; that's all on-line, and on line it's searchable.

    Of what's left, over half will still be pages that are all advertising. Throw out those pages. About 15-20% of the original pages will be left.

    Then throw out the pages than only have stories you already saw on Google News. Throw out the stories that came from PR Newswire. Maybe 2 to 3% of the pages will be left. That's the "content". The whole paper could probably be condensed down to about six pages. In many cities, less.

    Today's newspapers make spam look like an efficient data transmission medium.

  • For newspapers to survive they need to quit catering to senior citizens. According to a study from the Pew Research Center the only group of people that had a majority of respondents say they would personally care if their local newspaper disappeared were people over the age of 65 []

    Newspapers need to eliminate the things that other mass media do better. Why do newspapers have sports sections? I can see reporting high school sports for some local papers but why do they cover the professional sports? If s
  • While the idea of replacing traditional newspaper with an ereader is a good idea, the news conglomerates themselves will assure its failure. Scrips, Tribune, Gannet, etc will simply not let go of the desire for control long enough to agree on a universal reader. The result will be a half dozen readers, most likley not subsidized and all likely locked out from repurposing.

    A large portion of print media's market are those that are still afraid of technology, convincing them to use "magic paper" is going to

  • We tried this before [] and it failed!

    "It takes over two hours to receive the entire text of the newspaper over the phone, and with an hourly use charge of five dollars, the new 'telepaper' won't be much competition for the twenty cent street edition"

  • Everyone here seems to focus on distribution as a huge cost. It isn't, in relative terms. Certainly for books the action of printing a book and shipping it is cheap - far, far cheaper than the authoring and editorial process. If the objective is to open the floodgates to bring in crap, that is simple. Producing quality books isn't cheap and the costs of quality far outweigh the costs of printing.

    I don't have hard numbers, but however many millions it costs to print a newspaper, I am sure the salaries of

  • Information wants to be free. Sure, you may think it's a silly cliche, but the message holds true.

    So why would I pay for something that is readily available for free? The internet already provides me with an insurmountable amount of information on a daily basis... more information than I can ever recall reading in a week's worth of newspapers!

    Digital readers will neither save or condemn the newspapers; it's up to the newspapers to save themselves. Learn a lesson from the RIAA. Your business model has change

  • 1. Give electronic reading devices to all your subscribers.
    2. Other content producers figure out how to feed the device.
    3. Subscribers start to read news on reader from alternate, free sources.
    4. Subscribers cancel subscriptions.
    5. What, no profit?

  • News articles are mostly text and most of us have our mobiles with us most of the time. It only makes sense to read the news in our mobile phones.

  • by Shivetya ( 243324 ) on Monday May 04, 2009 @12:14PM (#27816861) Homepage Journal

    from a news story I gave up. The last election made it even more pathetic. Too many of today's newspapers are nothing more than tabloids. They would have been laughed out of the industry thirty years ago.

    So no, no reader is going to fix newspapers. Far too many of these papers are losing subscribers because the paper's political view is no where near in line with those who used to pay for them. Worse too many of these papers then call those people who don't subscribe over differences of opinion "ignorant" and wonder why that doesn't help.

    Then again my experience is mostly with the AJC... though my buddy in LA says it is no different there.

  • by Graymalkin ( 13732 ) on Monday May 04, 2009 @12:52PM (#27817403)

    This whole idea begs the question of whether or not newspapers actually need "saving". The Kindle is not going to save large newspapers anymore than their websites will save them. What needs to change is not so much the delivery format but the way newspapers are run. Newspapers and news entities cannot effectively run as for-profit organizations or at the very least not as publicly traded for-profit organizations. The demand for stock price returns have led to newsroom cuts, consolidations, and expansions into markets newspapers shouldn't really be in. Newspapers either became or got swallowed up by "media companies" and now are part of television, radio, newspapers, magazine, and sometimes internet media conglomerates. We're all the worse for it because in order to drive a profit newspapers have increased column inches for advertising and reduced column inches for actual articles. They've also taken to filling space with wire articles instead of having a decent sized newsroom of their own. Wire services in and of themselves are useful entities, especially for smaller papers but we've moved into an age where people can log onto Google News and read wire service articles, newspapers don't need to waste ink printing them.

    What will save newspapers the media conglomerates failing under their own weight and breaking back up. Newspapers will end up becoming more format neutral news organizations. They'll start providing news articles to specialized providers instead of running the whole stack themselves. A newsroom will write the stories and pass them off to Amazon to load on the Kindle, to Audible to make into an audiobook, to their website, and to a printer that will put the words to paper for people that still want (or need) a physical version of the news. The LA Times newspaper (for example) however will probably go away. It will end up being the "News and other work from the LA region" paper. A dedicated publishing group will pick up stories from the LA Times newsroom, advertisers, and possibly local blogs, and print and distribute them. The LA Times newsroom will no longer have to worry about the printer as long as their stories are submitted on time, advertisers can still get local ads out to people, and everyone will still be able to get the news that is important to them.

    The main difference between that future and today will be the newsroom and the printer will not be owned and operated by the same company. More newsrooms will likely end up privatized or run as community owned entities similar to the St.Petersburg Times. News is a difficult thing to make profitable as it is a service in the public interest. If existing news organizations don't reorganize they will fail and other organizations with more streamlined processes and better management will eventually fill the void. A newspaper might fail but the journalists that love their work will keep doing it in one way or another.

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." -- Howard Aiken