Tuesday, January 19, 2010

After the invitation the deluge

Talk on some of the journalism blogs today is about newspaper bankruptcies (guess what? magazine companies are going bankrupt, too), but meanwhile the talk elsewhere is about pay walls, tablets, and rumors, rumors, rumors.

PC World has a couple of articles up today about the Apple tablet including one so poorly thought through that the writer seems to think the new rumored device will be a giant iPod. Sorry, I refuse to link to that one.

In the meantime, work continues behind the scenes to bring content to the mysterious device. The WSJ has reported that "HarperCollins Publishers is negotiating with Apple Inc. to make electronic books available for the introduction of a new tablet device from Apple, according to people familiar with the situation, posing a challenge to Amazon.com Inc."

The article states that they could not discover whether the publisher would sell books through a new iTune media store, or through the existing iTunes store. Another option might be through an app -- though there is nothing to stop HarperCollins from doing this now.

The issue of pay walls continues to be hotly debated (pro and con and con) as the New York Times prepares their own Great Wall.  

New York magazine says chairman Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. is ready to go. "The newspaper is expected to announce in coming weeks that it will institute a metered pay plan in which readers would have access to a limited number of free articles before being invited to subscribe." Even here there is an Apple tablet connection: "Apple's tablet computer is rumored to launch on January 27, and sources speculate that Sulzberger will strike a content partnership for the new device, which could dovetail with the paid strategy."

I suppose Nicholas Carr would one of those on the pro side of the pay wall debate.  He writes colorfully on his own blog "information wants to be free my ass" and then lists all the money consumers spend each month for such things as cable tv, broadband Internet, etc. He is right, of course, and the argument that "information wants to be free" is clearly silly. But his list of paid services still doesn't convince me that pay walls for online publications will work.

On the other hand, I find his closing remarks completely on target:

It's a strange world we live in. We begrudge the folks who actually create the stuff we enjoy reading, listening to, and watching a few pennies for their labor, and yet at the very same time we casually throw hundreds of hard-earned bucks at the saps who run the stupid networks through which the stuff is delivered. We screw the struggling artist, and pay the suit . . . Somebody's got a good thing going.