Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Of Tablets and Pads and Mobile Devices

Will the iPad save printed news? (not likely, but I'm hopeful)  Is the Kindle gonna catch fire? (millions out there already)  Can't I come up with any better cliches?  (no)

This article has some nice musings about the unfortunately named iPad (which won't play Flash? what the hell's up with that?).  But the real question from a journalism standpoint is whether tablets and mobile e-readers will create a new revenue stream for news organizations badly in need of any kind of revenue stream (even a trickle will do, please).  Will people use their pads/tablets/kindles/etc to keep up with news and -- in terms of this blog -- what will that mean for how much they learn about politics and public affairs?

Full disclosure -- I'm on a team of scholars studying the Kindle as a source of news.

The NYTimes didn't mention much about the iPad at its latest meeting, and the Times already has an app for the thing and got on stage with Steve Jobs at the pad's unveiling.  Odd.

My own gut feeling, based on minimum data -- the iPad in particular will be used as a news reader but that'll be a minor reason to have the gizmo.  Games will drive its use, followed by whatever other toys they put on the thing (no camera? really?).  Kindle users I think of as the serious readers, the librarians of the gizmo set, and they'll sniff and look down at iPad users (and perhaps rightly so).  Will these folks add news to their Kindle?  Maybe, if the price is right, but I suspect not.

Obviously -- or it seems to me -- news orgs will have to partner with tablet makers to create some kind of pricing scheme.  Subscribe to the AJC for three years, for example, and we'll give you a $100 coupon for the purchase of an iPad/tablet/thingie.  Maybe then, with people "bought into" the news, the habit might kinda return and we'll see subsequent improvements in what people know.

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