I'm a newspaper columnist who -- like pretty much every other person I know in the business -- spends a lot of time worrying and wondering about where newspapers are going. This is a small attempt to find some light in the fog.
A couple of days ago, I bought my own Amazon Kindle. You already know that this is the relatively new reading device from Amazon (now in its second life -- Kindle 2). It is incredibly thin, has a screen that is roughly twice as big as an iPhone and numerous buttons that make reading a book (or newspaper) extremely easy.
I bought it for two reasons: One, because, let’s face it, I am a gadget junkie and I could not wait any longer; Two, because I have for a few years now been fascinated by the concept of some kind of handheld wireless device -- bigger than a phone and smaller than a broadsheet newspaper -- that people could use to read newspapers. Haven’t we all had this thought? It just seemed to me that there are SO many advantages to a device like this:
1. It could very closely replicate the print experience without many of the various costs of printing and delivering a newspaper. 2. You could, quite reasonably, charge a subscription fee. 3. You could, it seems to me, easily incorporate advertising into the product. 4. The newspaper would then become a living thing, no longer tied to the eight-hour shackles of the printing press and circulation, and one that could be updated, wirelessly and constantly, throughout the day. 5. It would be like what they had on The Jetsons.
There are no doubt disadvantages to using something like the Kindle too, but frankly I’m not business savvy enough to see them. I mean, yes, you would have to get these devices into the hands of people. Yes, the Kindle is not the perfect newspaper device -- it would be nice to have a device that was slightly bigger and perhaps had the capability for color -- but these are technical issues and I just find it hard to believe that we do not have the technology to create a remarkable wireless newspaper. I just cannot help but see the Kindle concept as a big part of whatever is the newspaper future ... and this will no doubt be one of the ongoing themes of this blog.
Here is Red with his thoughts about the Kindle. I’ll be back with more. Please feel free to dive into the discussion via comment or email:
* * *
I believe that the age of paper delivery of the news is just about over. Is this bad? Not in my view. No more so than the loss of the local Iceman, milkman, lamplighter or the town crier for that matter.
I am old enough to have sold the evening paper on the corner to the crowds that got off the streetcars and later buses. Later I had a paper route and flung the paper from my bicycle. Most of the time I even got it near the door. These are fond memories of my youth.
Today's kids will not have these experiences. On the other hand, I have no memories of horses in the street, The Great Depression or World War II. So who's to say?
The delivery of news will continue. Newspapers don't die due to the lack of news. They are dying because no one has figured out to how to deliver news -- and more importantly advertising -- to the individual (your personal copy) without using a press, paper and ink. I like the idea of my personal copy of the newspaper. Something I can have at my desk, the dinner table or den. I believe newspapers can still do that.
Enter the Kindle (or Kindle like devices). Technology is in place now to deliver the "paper" with all it's graphics from the internet "cloud" on a lightweight hand held device A web browser on a laptop is a poor second. Imagine your "paper" delivered to your personal device every day. The only things you would miss would be going outside to pick it up, the smell of ink and and the newsprint and being able to fold it in all those weird ways folks do.
With this model the newspaper would shed it's biggest cost, that of actually printing the paper. I believe news gathering organizations can then survive and prosper.