iPads and the future of news and media

I’m talking at the Media 2020 conference on Tuesday. I’ll be talking about gadgets and showing off my iPad but here’s my take on the silliness around iPad being the new Christ.

The deathnote for news has been served. So some are running off to the iPad and thinking that will save them and others are looking at paywalls, again. Marc Andreessen suggests burning the boats and going web only. Let management have a viking funeral too.

A touchscreen interface to your milquetoast content will not save your business.
A paywall to content that is far from unique or of value will not save your business.
Wordpress powered jaded content is still jaded content.
Has 3D saved the movie industry?

We’ve gone from storytelling to writings on parchment to printed missives to audio to audio and video to digital to multi-way interaction to a world now where something that fits in a pocket takes in data, sends out location data, takes audio, video, pictures, is manipulated by us, is shared with the world, shared and taken back into the device. Within seconds. We overshare on Facebook and generate our own news like we always have. “Any news?” we are asked. Do we respond with what we heard on the radio?

News should be getting richer and more multi-faceted every year and instead the past few decades it’s become homogenised. So yeah while starving yourself of oxegen got your rocks off for a while, it has also killed you. Ask Michael Hutchence and David Carradine.

Photo owned by nDevilTV (cc)

Why are news and media trying to barely iterate on what they are doing when there are devices out there that are not iterations of a previous device but big leaps and you don’t take advantage? The iPad is then going to take what it has now and iterate on that over years. Adapt to change. It hasn’t got multitasking, a camera, USB ports, is certainly not open yet is still vastly superior to anything out there. There are already amazing applications on it. Yet bringing in a new paperboy to deliver the newspaper to the door isn’t going to save you folks, is it?

Popular Science, Coolhunting and that Alice in Wonderland interactive book have been lauded as great so far for iPad but they’re on a device that’s a fraction of one percent of the people that daily consume media. If you wait for all of them to go all iPad buying then you’ll be very broke. Innovate what you’re doing, not how you deliver.

So all these huge news organisations in Ireland, all moaning about crime and gangland bladey blah. Not one has a Google map, mapping out the places where the violence happened. Not one has done interactive timelines. A multimedia world and we’re getting black and white single layer analog content or chirping about RTÉ.ie being a threat.

All could have been iterating their way to the full multimedia experience one gets with an iPad. Nah. Here’s an RSS feed and iPhone app that puts our content in a smaller window. Fa ab.

Look at the big bad content producers online right now. Facebooks, Twitters, YouTubes and all those other places of noise and mess. Look how much Facebook will make this year compared to the New York Times. While NBC or CBS kick their ass, look at the growth rate. Look at how much Apple has made from selling content and apps. I’m doubting the future of news will come from those in news right now or the trail blazing elitists that believe they’re better than their traditional media peers cos they have a blog and better than bloggers because they have a piece of paper that certifies they can type and press record on an mp3 recorder. You’re still the system, you just wear a silly cape around the office. Look to those who caused a stir online already and have a grasp of a business model used this century, not one that worked 200 years ago. Or actually know what a business model is.

At the end of the day the reason for the failure is this: It’s your stupid content, stupid

10 Responses to “iPads and the future of news and media”

  1. ruairi says:

    So all these huge news organisations in Ireland, all moaning about crime and gangland bladey blah. Not one has a Google map, mapping out the places where the violence happened.

    It’s always boggled my mind why they don’t do this. First thing I do is fire up Google Maps and find the place where these things happened.

    Simple stuff would enrich the experience so much.

  2. Well put. Irish newspapers still can’t get their heads around Web 1.0 let alone 2.0, and the order of the day continues to be shovelware rather than new ways of telling stories such as that simple example of Google Maps.

  3. They just don’t get it. When the Irish Times recently returned to paywalling, I sent a message saying that I thought they had priced it wrong – I would have paid 20-30 euros/year, but I wasn’t going to pay 89 or 99 – whatever it actually was. They sent a boilerplate “Thank you for your comment” reply. I sent another mail pointing out that for the past decade I have happily paid about 35 euros a year to a vet in the US who runs an excellent website http://www.horseadvice.com – and that’s my valuation of Irish Times content. I wonder did they research the pricepoint at all? It’s pretty much the same cost as their previous failed attempt, so why do they think it will work this time?

  4. The points you make about the lack of modern online integration (mapping of stories etc) is very well taken. A newspaper that invested in someone to do this could leap ahead of its rivals in terms of current media consumption.

    Perhaps the barrier is the ongoing problem: how do you make money from any of this? (The industry will go a long way this year to finding out the answer to that question.)

    I’d also argue that many of the people who claim that the traditional media is dead don’t seem to take much of an interest in the stuff the traditional media is most focused on. Stuff like the economy, Nama, elections. Stuff that will affect their lives, no matter how many Eurospars they’re mayor of.

    I’m obviously picking on a certain type of critic, there. To be sure, there are a few who comment on, and develop stories without the use of newspapers. (Especially who bother putting in FOI requests and the like.)

    But I think that too many journalists get defensive about the internet, if they pay heed to it at all. But they are generally the older types. And if they don’t adapt, the market will eventually throw them onto the slag heap. Brutal, but probably fair.

    For those journalists with the sense to embrace the web, they’ll still be the ones who’ll seed much (most, even?) of various coverage, link-swapping and debate online. Why? Because they do something that is essential to the process: they call someone up (or knock on their door) and ask what has happened. They chase Michael Fingleton and David Drumm around the world, asking them awkward questions.

    Finally, a good many clever digital entrepreneurs and creatives I’ve seen in Ireland place their creativity on show online. But, as soon as they’ve gained acclaim (and without having made any actual money off their project themselves), they scurry over to the traditional industries to make money, based on traditional techniques, reverting to traditional methods of operation.

    Anyway, good post.

  5. Really good post. Lots of food for thought in there and good comments by @Adrian Weckler above. I think the ‘how do we make money from this thing’ is still the biggest barrier for traditional media, especially print, to really evolve. While the possibilities online are so many and vast, they seem to overwhelm decision makers. However, small changes, introduced bit by bit can go along way towards developing richer content.

    For example, I’m still amazed that print titles don’t yet seize opportunities to get their journalists reporting from the front lines on Twitter, e.g. from Gov buildings re NAMA or from Passport Office or from Anglo Irish Offices or during various public sector protests. Guardian used this powerfully during the last G8 Summit (I think) in London and had 5 or 6 journalists sending updates from the street, reporting what was happening by the minute, posting interesting content and images. Kept you glued to the live stream on their website. Seems like an easy win to me.

    So, there are big big issues to be addressed, but lots of small innovations which could be introduced on a weekly or monthly basis which would at least demonstrate a sense of ‘we’re making efforts to embrace the opportunities here’, etc.

    Anyway, lots lots more to say on this. Good post. Will come back to it.

  6. UnaRocks says:

    Good post.

    I think one of the things newspapers mistakenly think they HAVE to do is adapt their content to new technology – like you said, putting it in a smaller window via an iPhone app, which I think is a very passive and unadventurous approach to ‘adapting’. What is more vital is creating new unique content that takes advantage of available technology (like you said, a murderous Google map) and uses that to compliment existing content (words on a page.)

    The furthest newspapers seem to have got with this online is really basic stuff like slideshows that doesn’t really even improve the experience of ingesting information, it just colours it. Papers should be working more at creating additional content that enhances the readers experience of learning about and interacting with a story, not just being able to access that story on their phone or iPad.

    It shouldn’t be about replicating content, it should be about expanding and exploring it.

  7. Sadhbh says:

    Great Post, Damien.
    I think one of the biggest barriers to anything more than incremental innovation in the delivery of news, is the inability of most content providers to think outside the traditional business models of payment for content (no different than buying a newspaper) or use of advertising (again no different from traditional media).
    In many ways the ‘suppliers’, whether they are large organisations like RTE and INM or single journalists with a blog, are focusing on what they want to say, rather than what the ‘consumers’ want to experience. The platform may change but the story remains the same.
    There is an opportunity to do something different here, we just don’t know what that is yet.
    Thanks for starting the conversation on this and interesting comments from others as well.

  8. They want a digital-technology multiplier to save them.

    Multiply the impact of their output from their existing content production methods.

    They don’t want to invest in more people and time to capture the data needed for interactive timelines. They don’t want to hire data visualisers or community managers or web-DTP savvy editors. They don’t even want to train existing staff to add simple metadata.

    They want to regurgitate onto Twitter, onto the iPad and onto readers.

  9. QoB says:

    “So all these huge news organisations in Ireland, all moaning about crime and gangland bladey blah. Not one has a Google map, mapping out the places where the violence happened”

    and it’s pretty easy. http://www.batchgeo.com/

  10. @QoB the technology is easy, the process isn’t. They don’t have co’ordinates in a spreadsheet. At best they have the city/town of the story and then the actual location written in English somewhere in the story. You have to mine that location out and that is error prone (reporting from location vs. reporting on location vs. reporting about location.) And even when they do have spreadsheets of metadata for stories you have to remember to upload it every time it changes.