It used to be that newspapers made money in order to produce news. Sadly, this is for a large part no longer true. These days most newspapers produce news to make money. This has spawned such “innovative” ideas as the paywall, clickbait articles and listicles. The result is a “product” (and I use the term very loosely) that has no chance at measuring up to the standard set by the newspapers of yesteryear. With the exception of the trade press, in-depth reporting is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, and something that is offered up very rarely.
Over the last ten years, I have been an active consumer of online news media. This has cost me nothing, simply because the online news outlets I read are financed by ads. According to Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corporation, this trend must change if news media are to survive. While I think that his approach – simply shutting people who don’t pay out – isn’t the way to endear himself to the consumers, I do think that he has a point.
Until recently, I had a subscription for the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten. About four months ago, I cancelled it, because I never read it anyway, mostly because I already knew most of what it said already, having read several online newspapers at home, at work and in transit. Will I ever take up a subscription to Aftenposten again? Maybe. But not for the paper version. Instead, I will gladly take up a subscription to their tablet app.
I say tablet app, instead of iPad, because I am in no way certain that I’ll still be using an iPad ten years down the line, but I most certainly will still be using a tablet of some kind. The first attempt at creating a good app for news consumption from a single source on the iPad comes from Wired magazine. Their app is free – as it should be. Instead, users pay per issue they download.
Let me just say this at once; reading Wired Magazine on the iPad just works. It’s quick, it’s comfortable, and gives me more value than the magazine itself ever did. Another example of an excellent solution is MacLife tablet edition, which also shows off the strengths of the iPad format for magazine consumption.
What makes me think that this would work for newspapers? I can only speak for myself. However, I know that I only really read a very small number of newspapers, most of which more or less conform to my political views. I want editorials on subjects that interest me, and I want to have it on the go. Having an app that, every morning, downloads the most recent edition, is just what I need and want. I can bring my pad, and the app, with me on public transport, reading the articles that interest me.
Why do I think that’s how they will save themselves? By offering a two-tiered system, the newspapers reach two markets. The model I’m envisioning is something like this: The first tier only offers headlines and a little detail, with no analysis. This should be free, or ad-funded. The second tier should have detailed articles with editorials and additional content, such as guest writers. I would willingly pay for a subscription to the second tier, which would give me more news, of higher quality.
What would I want from a newspaper app? At the very least, these three criteria should be fulfilled: