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Okay, so maybe I will try to kick start this sorry blog in the event that there’s someone out there paying attention. If not, well …..

You’ve seen the press reports. The big boys are starting to come out with their Android tablets. Samsung. Motorola. HP. LG. Lenovo. They’re all looking for a piece of the pie.

I’ll talk about what they’ll fail at some other point. But for now, we’ll focus on publishers, who have difficult choices ahead. Unlike the iPad — one device, one operating system, one screen size and resolution — Android comes in a myriad of confusing specs. There’s no one standard; they’re all in different screen sizes, resolutions and operating system, and that means publishers have to do one of two things: (1) find a market-leading an innovative solution so that one application can play across every Android device available or (2) make a bet on one of the manufacturers.

I think (2) is like betting on whether Kansas City or San Diego will win the world series; you can make that bet but you’ll lose. Publishers who want to get in the game in a meaningful way need to bet on a product that goes across every Android device. And they shouldn’t wait. Many of these devices will be out this Fall, and a publisher that starts right this minute has a chance to be out for the Christmas buying season — and this one will explode with the iPad and the Androids.

Those that wait will find themselves behind the curve once again — just like publishing was during the birth of news online, mobile and that iPad thing. Let’s get ahead of the curve for once.

The views expressed in this blog are mine alone

Give Apple credit — its once again quickly cornered the market on a product by hyping it to the point its become a must-have (though few people can tell you why, really). And it looks like Apple’s iPad will stay the dominant tablet for quite some time — certainly though this year, maybe even into next.

The recently concluded consumer electronic show cause much Android buzz. Manufacturers are promising all sorts of devices this year they claim will challenge the iPad for market supremacy.

They’re wrong. Here’s why:

  • Many android devices are killing themselves by joining forces with cellphone companies. In order to buy the Samsung Galaxy — a very well received Android device — who have to also buy a 2-year data plan through Verizon. Why would I do that when I can go month-to-month on the iPad? If other android tabs follow suit and force customers to buy unnecessary data plans, their sales will suffer.
  • The Android tablets will market against themselves as well as the iPad. My tablet has a larger screen size; it’s lighter; it has a better resolution; you can download apps from the Google store; yada yada. So while the up and coming Android tablets flight for market share, Apple will win with a simple message: We were here first. And we’re the best. Now try to beat us
  • Users like familiarity. Apple’s familiar. The new Motorola tablet (whenever that launches) is not. Neither are most of the other tablets coming on to the market.

There are other reasons Apple will win. But these are among the biggest.

 

 

I’m really excited about Android tablets. I don’t like the iPad’s lack of flash,
no USB ports and since I don’t have a Mac, don’t like the lack of compatibility.

And I fear, in the end, I may end up buying one.

It looks as if Samsung, being released Sept. 18, and Motorola, possibly coming
in October, are being released through cell carriers. That scares me. While no
one has said so, does that mean the carriers will require data packages and
contracts in order to get the tablets at a reasonable price?

That’s how the cellphone game works. Get a phone that retails for $549 for $99
as long as you sign a two-year contract and buy a  $29.99 a month data plan.
Will carriers try the same trick with tablets — $299 with a data plan but
$699 without? And will they try to force a two-year contract on all tablet
purchases?

If they do that, these android tablets will be dead on arrival.  Consumers are getting sick of being nickled and dimed for every new gadget that hits the market. That consumer frustration helps Apple. The iPad, for all of its flaws, doesn’t require any contracts and users can buy a data plan month-to- month. That’s enough to make me
change my mind and buy one.

That’s the question now that Barnes and Noble has announced it will sell its
lowest price e-reader, the Aluratek, for $99. This comes on top of the price
drops for the Kobo, Kindle and Sony products just to name a few.

This all makes sense as the market continues to grow. As e-readers become
cheaper to make, manufacturers can drop price and go after a segment of buyers
who think price, first — and in this economy, who care what the logo says as
long as you get what you want at a price you want to pay?

Does this mean Amazon should be wary? No. The Kindle is a better product and
offers more product than anyone. Their buyers are more likely to be swayed by
product reliability, functionality and depth of offerings. They’ll still be
e-reader king for a long time coming.

But I do wonder: with the Christmas season upon us, will other manufacturers
drop below $99 in an effort to corner that low-priced market?

The fallout in the e-reader market has been happening for more than a year now. Once respected e-readers such as Cool-ER have closed up shop. Others, like Plastic Logic’s Que, never got off the ground. In the midst of all of this. Amazon found a way to stay fresh, released a $139 wi-fi e-readers that sold out in days.

The question remains: what’s the future for single-use devices? As prices continue to drop — to below $100 — will e-readers be able to hold market share?

Probably — until multi-use tablets start coming in at under $199. That’s still a year or so away. That gives e-reader manufacturers a chance to continue to re-invent themselves, just like Amazon did.

Fox News — which claims it’s a real news organization and points to its slogan “We report, you decide” — has decided to hire Sarah Palin as a news “commentator.” This is the same Palin who falsely claims that current health care reform bill working its way through Congress contains provisions for death panels. The same Palin who accused Obama of “palling around with terrorists.” The same Palin who has recently agreed to speak at the first Tea Party convention.

Palin’s politics are fine. Everyone has a point of view, and she has hers. Okay. But it’s one thing to have a stated point of view, and another for an alleged news organization to hire someone so conservative she would make Jim DeMint (R-SC) seem liberal.

It’s time to stop pretending. Call Fox for what it is: a mouthpiece for the right. Apologies to the serious journalists who work there.

The opinions on this blog are mine alone.

Here’s the big wish: a limited anti-trust exemption for publishers.

The industry needs this. Badly. In an era in which technology has changed — and continues to change — information delivery, publishers won’t be able to survive if they can’t get together to discuss how to fairly price their products in this new world.

Right now, publishers can’t do that. They can’t get in a room and set the prices they would charge manufacturers for making content available on e-readers, for example. Instead, manufacturers set the price — and it’s a low ball price that doesn’t reflect the value of the content.

Publishers can’t get together and pick a preferred search engine that would access to all content for a price. Publishers can’t get together and discuss whether pay web sites are a good or bad idea.

Technology has changed everything. It’s time for a small change in the anti-trust statues so publishers can extract fair market value for the content they produce.

The views expressed on this blog are mine alone.

My next column for Newspaper and Technology magazine will take a look at the digital media’s rush to judgement, and how that yearning to be first can do more harm than good.

Competition among journalists is a hallmark of the profession. There’s nothing that the exhilirating feeling of getting a scoop, which is the ultimate reward for cultivating sources.

But there’s a big difference in the scoop mentality today. Just five years ago, the mainstream media could afford to sit on a scoop for a day in order to make sure every fact was iron-clad correct. Even in the days when cities had multiple newspapers, the deadline cycle meant journalists had most of the day to check facts, confirm information, and then check again.

In today’s 24-hour news cycle, with competition from entertainment sites and cable opinion shows, journalists now feel they have to rush to get information out as quickly as they can. This rush to judgement can lead to embrassing mistakes, mistakes that further hurt our credibililty.

I’ll have the full column posted in a few days.

The views expressed on this blog are mine alone.

Tiger Woods. Two words that have media jump for joy. Forget about additional troops to Afghanistan, a double-digit unemployment rate and the health care debate. Tiger getting jiggywith other women and his wife apparently going ghetto on him sent the media in a tizzy. Tiger’s answer to it all: he pled for his privacy.

Through this entire melodrama, Tiger has been right about one thing — this isn’t anyone’s business but his and his family’s.

I’m a life-long journalist who strongly believes public officials and figures should be held accountable for actions that have a negative impact on the public. I argued that point and fought hard for that principal when I served as national president of the Society of Professional Journalists. But there’s something about this Tiger business that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

He did not squander public money. He did not embezel funds. He did not have an affair with someone who could impact legislation. He committed “transgressions” that may include having sex with women who are not his wife.

The advent of the 24-hour digital news cycle and niche celebrity sites puts the private lives of public figures in the spotlight — fairly or not. I just can’t help wonder whether the constant parade of stories about his or her affair ends up demeaning a profession that has so many other issues to tackle.

The views expressed on this blog are mine alone.

Back after some time off.

There’s a lot of talk about government intervention in to help save the publishing industry. Some have suggested a subsidy for publishers so newspapers can keep operating. Some suggest the recent French program that buys newspapers and redistributes them. And there are a bunch of other plans out there, too.

This is simple: government can’t directly subsidize news or its creation. That’s got too many horns on it, and they’re obvious, so I won’t go over them here. But government can do one thing that would really help: provide a limited anti-trust exemption to publishers.

As it stands, publishers can’t get together and devise a unified strategy for surviving in a new digital world. They can’t set prices for their content on e-readers. They can’t, as a group, go to any news aggregator and set terms for content payment. If they try to get together and even discuss these issues, they have to lawyers in the room to make sure they’re not saying anything that gets them in anti-trust trouble.

It’s time to relax the rules — not eliminate, but relax. Publishers won’t be able to continue to provide information if they can’t talk about a future pricing model and how that works in this new world.

The views expressed on this blog are mine alone.