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Just as some publishers are moving to a metered and other pay wall systems, many others — really, the vast majority — aren’t. Reason: All sorts of research shows people, by in large, won’t pay for content.

That’s no surprise. No one has ever paid for content.  They’ve always paid for the convenience of getting their product to their door, whether via newspaper delivery boy or mail. That’s why asking whether someone would pay for content misses the point entirely.

The question should always be: are you willing to pay for the convenience of getting the information you want in whatever form you want it? That form can include mobile phones, tablets, laptops, print, electronic editions and whatever other form comes about.

Framing the question around the convenience of delivery would bring a much different answer. People are all about convenience; that’s why satellite and cable TV continue to do well in a time that no one really needs them. They bundle a large number of services and deliver it to you in a tidy package that’s easy to access.

Publishers should spend more time focusing on the convenience factor. Not only does it bring clarity to how they should position their product offering, but it also will help lead to decisions about what to include in their product bundle.

Here’s a roundup of happenings in the tablet world in May:

 

Time, Inc., has announced that it has reached an agreement, with Apple,  that allows Time to give its iPad app to its subscribers free. That’s a marked contrast to earlier Apple guidelines that insisted no publisher could give the app away as an inducement to purchase a subscription.

Time issued a release that explained the arrangement; Apple had no comment.

And that silence leads to two big questions:

  • Will other magazine publishers get the same deal?
  • Will other newspaper publishers get the same deal?

No one knows. Stay tuned.

So Sharp announces it will launch a tablet called Galapagos. It promises it will be really cool, and it promises the price will be competitive.  People will love it and flock to stores to buy so many the factory won’t be able to keep up.

So let me get this straight:

In an ultra-competitive tablet market, Sharp announces a tablet with a name many can’t pronounce, with no price or launch date?

Wow.

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.

Anyone surprised that Plastic Logic’s Que never got off the ground and has been killed hasn’t been paying attention for the last, oh, 18 months. Plastic Logic has a well-oiled publicity machine that resulted in a lot of terrific press, but no results. And there-in lay a cautionary tale — don’t get out in front of yourself.

But while Que has gotten a lot of press, there are several other e-readers that have bit the dust. IRex folded last month, only to come back as IRX technologies. COOL-er went under, which is too bad because that was a cool litte machine. In the tablet world, the Augen 7, K-Mart’s $150 toy, was much hyped but never shipped, and probably won’t be given it’s troubles with Google.

The dead and the dying are littering the e-reader landscape and that should be no surprise. Expect further fallout as Amazon keeps lowering its device prices and garnering even more market share.

(The views expressed here 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.

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.

There’s still lots of talk about whether newspapers can make money by charging for content. There’s a debate on LinkedIn, and Reflections of a Newsosaur recently weighed in, too. The positions are still pretty much the same — newspapers can’t because news isn’t a commodity anymore; or newspapers can only charge for certain, narrow content.

I think something different: I believe newspapers can charge for content if they do so as part of a single subscription strategy. In other words, a newspaper’s valuable subscriber gets all news on all devices free — in print, online access, mobile, e-readers (eventually) and other e-pub applications (like Adobe Air). One price and they can access all the content they want, whenever they want, from a number of different devices easily and conveniently. That’s the marketing strategy — ease and convenience.  Convenience, nowadays, resonates with the public more than the news we provide. We should emphasis that through this ease and convenience, we’re making it easier for our subscribers to live their lives, because we keep them informed, help them save money (through coupons) and keeping them abreast of news at it breaks.

Everyone else has to get a subscription of some kind. If they don’t, they don’t get to access our products.

The problem with this strategy is it would require all publishers to play along. That will be a huge challenge. But for the sake of the industry, publishers need to find a legal way to get together and talk about how to make this happen.

The views expressed on this blog are mine alone.

After a hiatus, it’s time to start blogging again.

I anyone surprised that the public perception of the media continues to decline? Recent polls show an astoundingly low number of people who believe in the accuracy of what they read or hear. No wonder. It’s because those polls don’t differentiate between journalists and entertainers.

The reporters at the New York Times are journalists; Rush Limbaugh is not. Bill Moyers is a journalist; Glenn Beck is not. Katie Couric is a journalist; Keith Olbermann is not.

But that simple fact — who is a journalist and who isn’t — is lost on most Americans. They hear vitriol from talking heads with a microphone and confuse them with reporters. It just happened again, when President Obama was awarded the Nobel Prize. There is a legitimate discussion over whether he deserved it. But that discussion wasn’t driven by journalists; it was driven by talking head with an agenda who used the occasion to vent their spleen.

That’s certainly their right, and they certainly have a niche group of followers who hang on every word. At the same time, it’s incumbent on us to separate journalists from the entertainers. We haven’t done a good job at that, and as a result, our profession suffers.

The views expressed on this blog are mine alone.