With its new application-laden reading/gaming/writing platform, Apple has once again stuck it to the powers that be, or that were. For in addition to thumbing its digital nose at Flash-maker Adobe, the iPad will speed the destruction of the traditional news aggregators’ all-or-nothing pricing model.
It’s not going to do wonders for the sales of already established e-readers like Amazon’s Kindle or Barnes & Noble’s Nook, either. That’s capitalism, baby.
There had actually been some talk (or hope) that the iPad would be the “savior” of newspapers by reinvigorating the presentation of these traditionally assembled editorial packages (and publishers like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have their apps at the ready). But just as the sleek iPod (and its iTunes library) chewed up the already-in-progress disintegration of the record labels’ monopolistic pricing power, the iPad is also more than just a pretty face. It’s savagely opportunistic.
The Internet and its related technologies have disrupted many aspects of information gathering, selling, and sharing. Display is just one of these changes. The very business model for newspapers has been obliterated – now the competition is unlimited for information and its associated revenue. With its easy navigation and multitude of apps, the iPad accelerates this process.
Apple recognized that many music consumers only wanted one or two songs on a CD, and its under-a-buck-per-tune price made messing with pirated MP3 files not worth the effort. Similarly, newspapers might charge per section or per article, as Michael Arrington of TechCrunch, and others, have written.
Unlike cable companies that have successfully fought unbundling (for now…) newspapers are no longer local monopolies. But while consumers may be less and less willing to pay for the “news,” they might pay for a good filtering service – that is, a brand that guarantees consistent quality (vetted sources, professional objectivity, intelligent insight, smooth writing).
Rather than be threatened by the iPad and its ilk, publishers should be opportunistic themselves: how has Apple provided them with a new way to monetize their product? How will the advent of iPad-accelerated unbundling affect not just subscriptions, but the real media moneymaker — advertising?