Paid content on iPads: Mistaking a rerun for a ‘do over’

Behold the iPad in All Its Glory

Image via Wikipedia

You hear a lot of newspaper execs and editors talking about getting a “do over” with iPads and other tablets with the opportunity to create subscription content instead of relying solely on advertising-supported content business models.

This line of argument goes: Since newspapers made the “mistake” of putting all their content the Web for free to begin with, it has been impossible to switch to a pay model after realizing that Internet advertising will never generate anything close to the same level of revenue as print advertising.

The problem is the scarcity (or monopoly in most cases) print advertising enjoys just doesn’t exist with advertising on websites. Of course, that rich print advertising model is in decline, in large part, thanks to the economics of online advertising.

With the introduction of the iPad less than three quarters ago, newspapers have eyed that platform as having the potential to make a pay model successful, which automatically affects the strategy of their websites (Web browser Safari on the iPad displays most news websites quite well, thank you).

Thus, the “do over” line of reasoning.

But in truth, it looks more like a rerun. Many pioneeering news organizations who went online in the late 1980s did start out with a pay model or a revenue sharing model based on someone else’s subscription model. Remember Prodigy, AOL, CompuServe and local BBS systems? Later, some bundled Internet access as they made the switch to Web, most notably the newspapers that resold the Infinet Internet service.

Those efforts lost favor and were abandoned when it became obvious that websites offering content for free with advertising were going to garner the audience. Newspapers weren’t last to the free Internet party, but they did play catch up.

The “do over” strategy portends a rerun of that misstep. Do you expect Huffington Post, Patch, Examiner, or Gawker to adopt pad tablet models? And if newspapers go the paid route on the iPad and other tablets and get left behind by the audience, would they be able to catch up once again by junking paid for free? Musings, perhaps, for another day.

Less one believe I’m totally into the Kool-Aid of “Information Wants to Be Free,” I do believe there are paid content opportunities for newspapers in the digital world, but re-shoveling prnt to Web to tablet and smart phone isn’t among them.

I think the opportunities involve deep drive, niche content or platform user experiences that create substantial (i.e. worth paying for) value to the consumer. Products with both may have the best chance of success.

Paid content cheerleaders need to fashion smart, stylish “new ‘dos” instead of tired “do overs.”

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Clarifying the perfectly clear is to muddle

This move to “clarify” the laws looks like an attempt to close more government records in Tennessee.

State Rep. Vince Dean said it ‘makes sense’ that any e-mail sent on a public computer would be a public record. But the law itself does not address the issues that have muddied its interpretation.

‘Any time you’ve got a law that’s in place, it needs to be clear enough the average citizen can pick it up and read it,’ Dean said.

We need to clarify that an e-mail sent from a taxpayer purchased computer is a public record?

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Let’s see there’s AP, Reuters, CNN and Twitter

 …there is something interesting in what (Twitter founder Biz) Stone seemed
to be describing: using the massive stream of 100 million tweets a day
that flows through Twitter as the basis of a kind of digital-age
Associated Press or Reuters newswire, which news organizations could
share and use as a tool for distributed eye-witness reporting from
around the world.

— Matthew Ingram at GigaOm

Ingram, noting that Twitter already is a news service, but one where it’s often hard to find the informative messages (or news) among the conversations and personal musings, suggests that Twitter ought to be working on tools that make it easier to curate or filter the less than 140 character dispatches.

That’s a good idea and one Twitter would do well to listen too. Twitter seems to be trying to develop closer ties to journalists and news organizations. Some months ago it created a blog, but has not been posting to it that much. The Washington Post is among those beta testing its “promoted Tweets,” a fancy way of saying selling advertising.

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WNOX, a beacon in radio history

Andrew Johnson HotelIn my Google Alerts over the weekend was a piece from the Arcane Radio Trivia blog on the history of WNOX.

It reminded me of Knoxville’s rich radio history, particularly with WNOX, the first radio station in Tennessee (yes the first) and the 10th (or the eighth depending on who is counting) in the nation.

It is also interesting that it was started by a 16-year-old.

Here’s a bit of the history:

In 1935 WNOX was sold to the E.W. Scripps Company which also owned the local newspaper, the Knoxville Sentinel. The Scripps Company hired announcer Lowell Blanchard in 1936 to and told him to hire more hillbilly performers. It was probably their plan to compete better with the upstart WROL. He began the variety program called the Mid-Day Merry-Go-Round. It became an institution. It mixed comedy, dixieland, swing and live Hillbilly performers. It was not a pure country program by any stretch but it went head-to-head with the Farm and Home Hour on WROL. In 1936 it’s star Roy Acuff quit to work at WROL. They were now rivals, not just competitors.That would last into the 1940s.  In March 1941, WROL moved to 620 AM;  they changed calls to WATE and began doing more news.

The station helped start the careers of Archie Campbell, Homer and Jethro, Roy Acuff and many others. One of the homes of the station was the Andrew Johnson Hotel shown here in a photo taken around 1941.

Local journalist and author Ed Hooper published a book about the WNOX in 2009: Knoxville’s WNOX (Images of America). The station in its heyday was said to have a range from New York City to Daytona Beach, Fla.

Photo from the Library of Congress.

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Fixing errors online needs some correcting at news organizations

Newspaper CorrectionWe in the press talk a great game about correcting our errors, but in the end do a piss-poor job backing it up. (An academic study of corrections found that only two per cent of verified factual errors were corrected by newspapers. Perhaps piss-poor is too generous…)

Craig Silverman

The concept of “paper of record’ has already moved from print to online, just look for all the articles on the Web about “reputation management” (it’s a mini-industry). When someone is looking for information on a person or a place, or a thing or an event, they are going to Google; not heading to the public library for an exciting date with microfilm.

But newspapers and other news organizations really haven’t developed a solid or transparent set of policies and procedures to deal with the issue online. Most newspapers have longstanding policies on how errors are corrected in print, but if you ask editors and reporters about online corrections in their own newsrooms, you likely will get as many answers as people you ask.

(And every news organization is dealing with an increasing number of “unpublish requests,” a topic that an APME Online Credibility project headed by Kathy English of the Toronto Star dealt with extensively earlier this year with a Poynter NewsU webinar and a downloadable report that includes a framework for developing a policy.)

While the academic study Silverman refers to above is from a couple years ago, a new survey of online correction practices has just come out. MediaBugs, a website and project headed by Scott Rosenberg and Mark Follman, published earlier this week the results of a survey that highlights the haphazard approach by major news organizations in dealing with corrections online.

One finding ought to particularly rankle those in newspapers, whose editors often puff their chests with pride as they say newspapers are much more credible sources of information than other media, particularly TV news and blogs:

Interestingly, the cable news networks have the best overall record — a better one than newspapers or magazines. There’s one exception, however: the Fox News website is entirely lacking in any corrections-related content or information: no way to find out if they fixed something and no way to tell them they got it wrong.

Well, thankfully, there’s always Fox to set the bar low.

While it might not work for every organization, MediaBugs has put together a “best practices” for error reporting and corrections that ought to be used as a starting point for serious conversations in newsrooms about providing mechanisms online for reporting errors, policies for fixing errors online and the level of transparency that is appropriate.

And the discussion so far has swirled around news websites. Mobile sites and apps for smartphones and devices like the iPad bring yet another dimension to the issue of corrections. Are developers, online content people and editors asking “What about corrections” when developing the specs and feature sets for those? I think not.

(Image from PopHangOver.)

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An ending almost like truth, justice and apple pie

Last month an article, “American as Apple Pie — Isn’t,” was placed in error in Cooks Source, without the approval of the writer, Monica Gaudio. We sincerely wish to apologize to her for this error. We have made a donation at her request, to her chosen institution, the Columbia School of Journalism. In addition, a donation the Western New England Food Bank, is being made in her name. It should be noted that Monica was given clear credit for using her article within the publication, and has been paid as she has requested to be paid.

— Cooks Source

(via How Publishing Really Works)

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