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Why the iPad Makes Murdoch Right

Where were you when it started
Do you want it for free
What was it you wanted
Are you talking to me?
- WHAT WAS IT YOU WANTED?

Right. It’s the iPad and, obvious jokes aside, I think the device is going to revolutionise more than just reading on the toilet.

Here’s the thing – the iPad is just too damn beautiful for shit content. I think this is the best thing that has happened to publishing for a long long time. People will pay for content on this baby, and on other devices that follow. Be assured, they will follow, just like they followed the iPhone. I wouldn’t disrespect my iPad (that someone is sure to send me as a gift) by reading machine-generated advertorial crap on it. I want to read good content written by people that are paid to write. And I’d be happy to pay a small fee for this – for books, newspapers, magazines, video and the hybrids of these that are going to emerge.

We recently saw a lot of people paying for the Guardian iPhone App, although I don’t understand how a one-off payment for content is sustainable. We need a way to do in-app recurring payments, which should be relatively easy. Murdoch’s threat to remove News Corp content from Google and start charging for it makes more and more sense. And all you people that scream about content being free – consider the BBC web site for a second. They produce wonderful content, which is paid for by every citizen in the UK as part of our taxes, and I don’t think many people begrudge them this.

There will also be people that scream “Damn You, @McBoof. How could you write about the joys Open Data and Open Standards then embrace a Paywall. Judas!”. To those I say, “Trust Me, Open does not always mean Free”. More on this another time.

A last thought on the iPad. The fact that it doesn’t have a camera doesn’t bother me at all. The lack of Flash is a small issue, but I don’t like Flash much. No USB port sadly – the device is still too closed for me. And it needs to multitask, and I got the impression from what I’ve seen so far that it doesn’t. That sucks a bit. Still, I want one.

Let’s close on a video from 2006 (thanks to @halvorson):

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17 comments to Why the iPad Makes Murdoch Right

  • I totally agree with you – this ups the game. Multitasking is essential, e.g. surfing the web and a chat window could pop up etc.

  • bex

    I completely disagree…

    People are “predictably irrational” when it comes to free stuff. Why pay for the New York Times when I can get most of that for free on blogs, or Reuters? Even if it is ten times cooler, the perception of “free” is just too enticing.

    It’s basic supply and demand. A billion people are trying to get you to come to their blog, for free. New York Times wants to charge a penny. Viewers don’t know how much the information is worth. Guess who will win?

    Case in point: three months after NewsDay put up their paywall, and spent $4 million on a new site, guess how many subscribers? Just thirty five.

    http://www.observer.com/2010/media/after-three-months-only-35-subscriptions-newsdays-web-site

    • I figured a few people would disagree. So here is a question. A device like this (not this one, but a better, more open one in the future) will let people have a really enjoyable content reading experience. If people will not pay for high quality content on something like this, will they ever pay for content? If not, does that mean that all content production will need to be based on ad revenue, and so the rise of the search-engine-gaming machine produced drivel is inevitable? Is good content on the way out?

  • Nick Beitner

    That the barrier to making money from content is that there is too much that is free is accepted (as is the immediate challenge for the likes of NewsDay), but here is the important question … if you as Jon on Tech had a way to monetize and syndicate your content, rather than giving it away free … would you do it?

    eBooks aside, it is only a matter of time before the way the populous publish content on the Internet changes to allow for a free market economy (in the financial sense rather than Google ranking) to push up the value of high quality content irrespective of where and how its authored.

    Currently there is little to regulate the quality of content on the Internet despite Googles efforts … and for the masses at the moment it is even harder to monetize.

    But consider this … what is a publisher or publication more than an editorialized aggregation of “high quality” content aggregated from a limited set of authors. When exclusivity is maintained then there is real value in the editorializing service.

    Once good authors have a real route to monetize their content, the purpose of publications becomes re-invigorated.

    Me thinks that Reuters and Getty should consider casting their net wider afield and create an environment for the masses to monetize and syndicate content.

    Of course, for those with an ego, or who just like to trumpet on the Internet, the “aged” versions would become free to post on their blogs and such as a way of marketing themselves. But wouldn’t you make your content content exclusive for a short period if it meant you could actually make some money from your insight …

    Of course, many years ago when the dot com boom was taking shape and companies like IPC and Emap had the opportunity to invest their millions in real organizational change, they blew it all on a few publication web site white elephants … what a waste.

    Anyway, I am off to write a business plan …

  • I’m with you Jon that it could be a much needed kick in the arse of the publication industry. But only if 1) people actually buy them, and there seems to me to be a huge problem with that, viz. that the usual earlier adoption suspects already own a MacBook and an iPhone, and 2) ebook pricing begins to approach sanity. You simply can’t sell digital goods for the same price as physical ones, and the publishing industry really needs to get their heads around this.

    Talking of payments but otherwise off-topic; I’d really like to see Apple convert their store into a general purpose payments platform/bank and blow Paypal out of their scum infested water. The iBank – I’d buy that. But maybe that’s just me.

  • bex

    The idea that people will pay for “quality content” is fatally flawed… because it confuses “value” with “price”.

    Adam Smith called this the “diamond water paradox.” What is more valuable to human survival, diamonds or water? Obviously water has greater value… it has greater “quality.” However, diamonds are hugely expensive, and water is cheap if not free. Why?

    Price has nothing to do with “value” or even “quality”… it is only dependent on supply and demand. And when something is “free,” it creates an irrationally large demand… it’s called “loss aversion.” Offer somebody the choice between a free gumdrop, or a Lindt truffle for a penny. You’ll be shocked by how many people choose the gumdrop.

    Now… there is a HUGE supply of free content with fairly high quality. There is a small supply of high-quality content that people are willing to pay for… by my count, that’s restricted to Netflix on demand. And Netflix keeps getting cheaper… not a good sign for people who want to charge for their content.

    As long as some web site out there is offering nearly the same content for free, paywalls don’t have a chance.

  • I hear you loud and clear. But Netflix isn’t the only paid-for high quality content. People still pay for books (electronic or otherwise). Some people still pay for music and video. Will all of this be replaced by free decent quality alternatives (like this full feature Open Source moviie – http://www.valkaama.com/)? My feeling is that people still recognise it takes money/talent to make a movie/book, and most will pay for that.

    Do you think that it is just magazines/newspapers that won’t be able to charge for content? Or will book/film publishers have the same issue?

  • John Goode

    Too big for my pocket. Not useful enough to warrant a bag. That said. I have been known to change my mind :)

  • bex

    Do you think that it is just magazines/newspapers that won’t be able to charge for content? Or will book/film publishers have the same issue?

    I think everybody will have this problem. The money is not so much in the creation of internet content, as it is in the distribution. The merger between Comcast and NBC is a great example of one media company who “gets it.” NBC gives away Hulu nearly for free, and knows that others will soon follow suit. After the merger is complete, Hulu/NBC content will be free, while News Corp struggles to make ends meet with paywalls.

    Ads can generate some revenue, but if you really want to make money, you need to lay down some fiber optic cables… like what Google is just getting into.

  • I don’t think the Ipad will be as successfull as the iphone, as it is not as knew and revolutionary.

  • PeterP

    We all pay for content that matters and for a whole pile of drivel covering people who are famous for being famous… just ’cause it can be free doesnt mean that it has to be free or that we wont pay for it…. diamonds dont have an intrinsic value (industrials aside and then it is low) but some people still delight in their value (they weren’t really popular until the marketing people helped us understand how and why we should value them)… the only issue for publishers is how to make the ‘Lindt for a penny’ attractive enough to the number of people it takes to finance their cost model….

    the iPad is just like the original Macintosh in concept, closed and simple, to get the early adopters and create a market – i’m one of the original early adopters and still have mine in the loft…. This was opened up with the MACII and I guess that Apple will continue to follow the pattern that has worked for them from the begining re functionality and price in setting the market standard..

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  • Too big for my pocket. Not useful enough to warrant a bag. That said. I have been known to change my mind

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