Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Are newspaper publishers really leery of Apple's new iPad? or is this just Financial Times nonsense?

Damon Kiesow at Poynter links to Kenneth Li's story in the Financial Times, iPad deals with publishers face hurdles, and includes a few other negative stories to boot -- a good example of aggregation with a viewpoint.

But Li's story is utter nonsense, and worse, feeds into the myth that newspaper people are ignorant about New Media and future publishing models.

☜  The FT registration process.

According to the FT story, newspapers publishers are leery of dealing with Apple in negotiating deals for their new iPad. Apple's policy of safeguarding consumer data is supposedly preventing some publishers from completing deals with Apple. Publishers, it is inferred, want that data!
FT: "Is it a dealbreaker? It’s pretty damn close,” said one senior media executive of a US metropolitan daily newspaper.
Yet is this even true? Not by a long shot. First, no one is negotiating to appear on the iPad. That is simply not how it works. The issue is selling apps through the iTunes story.  A publisher submits their app to Apple, it get approved, and Apple services the transactions.

Do publishers complain when the newspaper vendor on the corner of some New York street accepts a quarter (OK, it's more like $1.25 now, but stay with me)? What is the poor schmuck to do, have the consumer fill out a form for the circulation department? And are newspaper execs shutting down their web sites because anyone with a browser can read the news? What about the WSJ? They're gathering tons of demographic information, right? Oops, when forced to subscribe online they appear more interested in my credit card number than my income, profession or ethnicity.

And what about the idea of registration? One of my favorite apps is from Instapaper, ReadLater.  The first time I opened the app it required me to sign in. It is all a free service to iPhone users -- provided you register online with the company.

Of course, the FT story is full of the same old anonymous quotes. "Some publishers are also griping about Apple’s compensation model." (My emphasis.) None are quoted by name; in fact, none are quoted at all. Is Li auditioning for a spot as Pentagon reporter?

I suppose it is possible that newspapers publishers are a spineless breed in mortal fear of big, bad Apple. But being a former newspaper publisher myself I'd certainly like to think better of our profession -- in fact, I do.

In the end, newspaper publishers will adopt tablet publishing in a big way -- either by jumping into the iTunes store asap, or by being forced to when more computer manufacturers start to compete with Apple by bringing out their own tablets. And even if they resist then, third party vendors will emerge to make sure every newspapers has an iPad app available. (And finally, there are the aggregators -- more on them later.)

So, in the end, it is the Financial Times that fears Apple, right?

Well, no. The FT currently has two iPhone apps in the iTunes store -- one for news, one for travel. And lo and behold, the apps state that subscribers, that is print subscribers, have unlimited access. Plus "free registration" allows 7 extra free articles per month.

Gee, sounds like the Financial Times has figured it out. So why does their reporter think no other newspaper publisher will?