(UPDATED; see end)
Ge’ez, that’s original. So does everybody – so join the line. That’s no news.
Wait! Take it again!
Did you say you want you newsPAPER into the iPad or you NEWSpaper?
Because: if you meant the latter, you might be into something.
“It shouldn’t be about the device but about the information”, said Rob Curley (Washington Post) already several years ago.
It should be about the news in the newspaper, not the paper in the newspaper. But the sad truth: the majority of publishers still get it backwards.
I predicted in the beginning of 2010 that the year would be remembered as “the year of the tablet”. I do dare say now – a year later – that it was a pretty accurate prediction. IPad has had more influence than 95% of the people ever thought possible. And it will continue, no question. In my line of business (i.e. media, multimedia, photography) tablet computers are an essential part of the future. In a bit longer perspective, they might actually BE the future. Simple as that.
2011: The Tipping Point
Let me make a blunt statement about the coming year:
“2011 will be remembered as the year when the daily printed media finally gave in”.
Gave in as: 1) they realized that they really have to take a fresh approach on this or 2) they succumbed to the inevitable spiral slide to extinction.
I have always liked the principles of the chaos theory and thus the concept of tipping point comes to mind. Somebody else might choose to call it “the point of no return”.
I would love to see the first option come true, but I am dreading that option two will prove to be the one taken.The words of Vincent Laforet (in the Seattle workshop last spring) come to mind: “Unfortunately, the Print has a long history of NOT getting it right….” I share his fear.
We have already seen some and in 2011 we will see a massive proliferation of daily print publications seeking their form into the tablet. Washington Post, New York Times have led the way… others have followed. December 2010 Helsingin Sanomat, our biggest daily, published their long awaited app – coinciding with the release of the iPad in Finland.
Let me use HS as an example – to make my argument – but before I do, please mark my words: they publicly asked for feedback, so here we have it. This is feedback. I am not trying to rip down their well meant effort just for the sake of fun or ridicule. This is feedback – consider this my ten cents.
Back to the Stoneage – Back to the Web 1.0
HS application (available in the iTunes) is very smooth and very slick. It is a pleasure to read, it performs very nicely. It is classy, it is stylish. Not in my dreams I could code anything like that.
And yet, I constantly refer to it as “tyylikkäästi takaisin kivikauteen” (going back to the stoneage – with style). Why? Here are my (main) arguments:
- It has a renewal cycle of 24 hours – like a legacy newspaper. But in terms of news – in 2011 – that is incredibly long time. Ridiculously long. It is literally telling yesterdays news.
- It contains only a selection of the articles published in the print version. Makes me wonder why, as bits are definitely cheaper than paper. Lots of the stories which make up the printed version – which make up its reputation as an extensive coverage of our national daily news – do not make it to the iPad version.
- It is not available in the net – it is available in a store called iTunes, owned by a company called Apple. Thus: no article can be referenced or forwarded or linked. This is huge, huge issue. People just don’t usually think about it and I will discuss this further below.
- It has no social media integration: facebook, twitter…. due to the previous point I mentioned – i.e. it is not available in the web. No way sharing with your friends if you found something interesting or worth commenting.
- It is very much based on text and one image per story approach. It does not support any multimedia nor video (at least I did not come across any). HS video in general is based on flash (as is the case with the majority of newspaper websites in this country) so even the videos on their website do not display on iDevices.
- In order to view the images (or the image – as it typically is just one, two images) you need a constant online access – i.e. you can only use it in premises where you have internet access all the time, be it 3g/edge or WiFi. Yes, the text gets downloaded when you download the daily issue, but images are only accessed based on “show only when needed” – i.e. VOD-principle.
- And so on and so on… but you get the drift?
To summarize: it is a stylish effort. Created by people who were brought up by text, who think that text is the king – text ,not content. People who will take any measures to protect The Paper – and thus graciously version the highlights to this new toy called iPad for us geeks to enjoy. People who think that social media is for fun and play only and to whom multimedia is something which should be taken care of with antibiotics…
Does that sound like the media society we are living in right now? Is this 2011?
My stricktly personal opinion: it’s dead boring – DOA as they say in all the police series. It’s stylish and in many cases the journalistic content is of the highest level in this country. But, bottomline: nobody really want so see this: a selection of The Paper packaged into an iPad app. Not in 2011.
So: I go back to Pulse, BBC, NYT … which I have discussed earlier. There are choices around.
Availability in the Net
I said above that HS iPad edition is not available in the net. This is something people don’t usually think about so let me discuss it a bit, as it is of crucial importance.
The power of the web is its connectivity.
That is the sole most important factor or property of the internet. Information can be linked and referenced – and it leads to new information, new connections, connections never thought existed before, etc. (this would take a full book to discuss further – if you bare in mind that my background is in neuroscience… ;-)).
When something is packaged as an APP and it is available in the iTunes, it means: it is basically viewable in that store. You have to buy access. For yourself only. You cannot reference it in any way and talk about it to your friends (in computer terms). The only way to reference it is to literally talk about it (ie. verbally, over in the phone or something) or copy-paste text or content in order to show it (in which case you might run into difficulties with copyright…)
A publication such as the one discussed (HS iPad ed.) harnessed into an app like this is based on top down principle. The authority telling “this is the way it is” and at the same time implying “we really do not give a shit about your opinion, because WE are the real keepers of the truth…”.
This is the selected few talking to the ignorant masses… the classic MASS MEDIA approach in full swing. Couple of decades ago this was the only option. Five years ago it was still going strong… Not in 2011.
Reality is elsewhere: Web 2.0 was been with us for several years now (if this is a totally new concept to you, you might want to read e.g. Clay Shirky’s Here comes Everybody). But even if you have not heard of web 2.0, you might have heard about things such as Twitter and the Facebook…. ;-)
Presently, we are actually already moving past to web 2.x or even 3.0 – but the fact remains that the HS app is back to the web 1.0 – and thus a huge leap backwards.
In case you are interested in this more in depth, let me recommend an article in the Scientific American some months back by Tim Berners-Lee called Long Live the WEB: A Call for Continued Open Standards and Neutrality.
In case his name does not ring a bell: he is actually the guy who 1990 came up with the idea of the World Wide Web and created it with his desktop computer in Switzerland. The father of internet, so to speak. In this article, he is expressing his deepest concerns about the present developments and how it relates to openness. Absolutely worth reading.
Why Do We have to Publish as an App?
That is a very good question.Peer pressure, as everybody is doing it? Not understanding that there are options? I honestly don’t know, as I am not in the publishing business.
And sure, there is the obvious answer: money, money, money… It’s a simple way trying to maximize the income from the consumer end. “You cannot share, copy it… It’s ours and so you will buy and buy it day in and day out…” At least this is the way logic goes.
But: I won’t buy. And very few people actually will, that is my prediction. Once the novelty factor wears out, this approach is dead on delivery. You won’t make money in this in the long run… the only one making profit is the supplier of the store, in this case Apple, as their margin compared to their overhead is huge (simply considering the volume of these publications).
And it is kind of sad… No, let me take that again: It is kind of sickening that the future of journalism – an essential part of any society to work in a more or less democratic and civilized manner – is brushed away in a perverted effort to protect the printing industry and to maximize the profit.
The words of Jim Morrison come to my mind: “You know, I am going to get my kicks out of this before the whole shithouse goes up in flames…” Substitute kicks with money and there you have it. Maybe the present leaders of the legacy print spent too much time listening to The Doors way back when…
But, as I said, it is a good question – as there are options (and my guess is that these will increase exponentially very soon). And as I notice my word count is hitting 1500 words, let me just briefly show – or demo – you two approaches.
Take your iPad, open Safari and type in the address www.filmon.com (Note: do that with the iPad, not your computer). It takes you to a page where you can view CNN, Skynews, etc. for free. Bookmark that page to your homescreen… and then stop and think for a while: it looks like a native app, it behaves like a native app, it has a symbol like a native app… EXCEPT: you did not get it from the iTunes. It is not an app. It is available in the web.
Why hasn’t any (traditional) print publication gone this same way?
Second example: why is it that it is only very, very few publishers who have just simply optimized their webpages so that they will display beautifully on the iPad – as e.g. www.zeit.de has done (I strongly recommend seeing the page with both a standard computer and with an iPad and comparing the experience).
Today, in the face of these endless possibilities of creating unforeseen content – content worth paying for – why does The Print not concentrate on the future of journalism instead of business models with minimal overhead and maximal (very) short term profits?
But then again hey, what do I know, I just take pictures, right? ;-)
One always runs out of space. Too long, too many words. So you cut it short. I had dozens of references to back my argument up… but I hardly used any. So let me rewind just a bit.
As I said, what do I know… but Andrew Walkingshaws blog entry 29th Dec. is a gem – and should be shared and read by everybody working in this field. I highly recommend reading it.
It got republished in paidContent.org and that’s where I saw it about a week ago. I hope he does not mind me quoting him to this length, but his last three paragraphs just nail the present situation so accurately and they are a clear message to the legacy daily print publishers:
“Put another way, tablets are always-on, tactile, completely reconfigurable, great-looking, permanently jacked into the Internet plumbing, and you’re using them to make skeumorphic newspaper clones? When there are thousands of new, more direct, more usable, more valuable experiences you could build using the same technical and journalistic skills, and when you’ve already established I wasn’t willing to pay for your paper in the first place?
Seriously: what the hell are you thinking?
If I care enough about your content, you can give it to me on stone tablets in cuneiform and I’ll find a way to use it. If I care a bit, I’ll go where it’s the right combination of easy, affordable and reliable. (But: if you want me to pay, I’d better be making money or having fun somehow.) If I don’t care at all, there is nothing you can do, not even really nice swipe effects, which will make me care. Come back when you’ve fixed the content. Come back when you can show me a new perspective. Come back when you make me faster or smarter. Come back with fundamental, not cosmetic, innovation. We’ll talk then.”
What Comes After Newspapers: Forget Form, It’s About Content by Andrew Walkingshaw (as published in paidContent.org, dec. 30 2010)
I could not agree more – and man, I wish I could write with that fluency…