Can the iPad save Fleet Street?

Writing in this week’s Spectator Magazine, Mark Wood, former editor-in-chief of Reuters and CEO of ITN, recognises that newspapers are losing money hand over fist and considers if Apple may have devised an electronic format that could save the day.

In a fascinating piece, Mark says: ”The clock is certainly ticking. Microsoft gives newspapers ten more years at most as printed artefacts. One Financial Times executive has suggested that the FT will be out of the pink newspaper business in five. Other publishers give it longer: but the time frame is years rather than decades. To stay ahead of the game, newspapers and magazines …will have no choice but to migrate to an online format that people will want to keep paying for.’

Whatever impact the iPad has on newspapers, I think that they are going to have to change in terms of what they offer and how they share their content. The biggest effect the internet has had on newspapers is that it makes news easy to access for free. So getting news in your newspaper is not particularly special and it is often totally out of date by the time you read it.

The Social Web has fundamentally altered how news is created and distributed. A crisis in a country will often lead to citizens creating the news: tweeting; distributing photos; and blogging. How do newspapers respond to these developments?

Also the appeal of the Social Web is that people can talk with their friends directly and share information with them. They are clicking on links, moving around and are dynamic. They are not sitting quietly holding a static newspapers anymore, obediently reading what the editor of the newspaper wants them to read. So how will newspapers respond to that development?

The introduction of another smart and well-designed application from Apple which delivers internet content in a different format does not alter the fundamental underlying behaviours that people are exhibiting on the web. Which means that iPad or not, newspapers now face readers who have more power at their finger tips and far more choice than they ever did before. And, what’s more, the value of social media sites to people lies in the fact that they can create their own media now which is relevant to their lives.

So, to conclude, it is likely to take far more than the iPad to guarantee the successful future of newspapers as they move online to connect with their readers. But I’m sure good newspapers will successfully reinvent themselves to enjoy the benefits of the social media age.

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