Apple iPad, Steve Jobs may have just saved the publishing industry
The newspaper industry has been in shambles for some time now and it can be argued the most critical misstep or further accentuation of their damaged state came when they began providing unlimited content via the Internet for free. The driver of this strategy in the beginning was most likely an attempt to gain and/or maintain customers. Visitors of their site could experience what they had to offer, not unlike the showroom at your local home furnishing store and if they enjoyed the available topics, writing styles, etc., then the chance they might become a subscriber would then increase. Additionally, if they could further the relationship they had built with their existing subscribers in the digital context, those subscribers would assumedly not look elsewhere to fulfill this new requirement.
Nevertheless, I believe they underestimated the very customer they were trying to attract. Many theorized that one’s reading experience online would never fully replace the experience one enjoys by holding a newspaper and/or magazine in one’s hand. The online experience would merely add value to one’s overall reading experience. This was not the case and as a result, subscriptions have continued to decrease year over year and advertisers have reallocated large portions of their spending to online platforms. In a desperate move, a few publishers have once again started charging for their online content. This becomes a very difficult proposition once consumers have been trained that online content should be free and even more so when other publishers are still offering their online content at no charge.
The release of the Apple iPad today offers the publishing industry a much more viable option. Consumers have proven they are willing to purchase apps via the Apple iStore or elsewhere. Publishers need to embrace this as being their new medium distribution model and create apps that give users access to their digital content. The content will remain free and because the app has perceived value based on the price paid, the consumer will be less likely to indiscriminately jump from one news service to another.