Why Newspapers Are Going Out of Business

I am not one of the people who ran out to buy an iPad when it was released. However, given how much I like my Kindle2, I believe that there is a market for a device like this. One of the useful features of a device such as the iPad is the ability to read news and magazine stories. There was a time when I read 3 newspapers a day (actual paper newspapers) as well as a handful of magazines a month. Those days are long gone. Although some magazines show up in our mailbox every once in a while (why I don’t know), I haven’t read one in ages. Similarly, I check out the headlines on 3 or 4 newspaper websites regularly, but I couldn’t tell you when I actually read a physical newspaper last.

Obviously, if these organizations are to succeed in the future, they will have to embrace, at a least to some extent, the new media available. Ernie the Attorney, who did get an iPad, decided to try out the Wall St. Journal app. Ernie explains:

I downloaded the free Wall St. Journal app for the iPad, just to see if there was something worthwhile. I used to subscribe to the print version of the Journal and liked it a lot. I got the iPad app to work, after chopping through the thicket of registration screens and admonishments.

I figured I’d get about 2 weeks of hassle free time to check out the app and see what kind of content they are putting out for the iPad. No dice. I kept getting a registration screen. So I deleted the application.

This is not an uncommon phenomenon. A company decides to try to move its product to a digital version and makes it too difficult or cumbersome to use. When it is not  adopted, then the provider declares that attempt a failure, blaming the media, not their poor design. Ernie laments that many companies spend millions of dollars trying to build a following. Newspapers, however, (at least right now) already have that following:

Newspapers have large audiences in the print world and can’t seem to figure out how to tease a substantial portion of that audience into the online world. The production and delivery costs of online media are much lower, and so you’d think that the newspapers would be desperate to transport their paper readers to online media.

And then comes the iPad, a device perfectly suited to making that transition possible. And what do newspapers like the Wall St. Journal do? They want to charge almost the same amount of money for the online version as the print version. And they can’t figure out how to let early adopters on the iPad consume their content free to get them hooked.

Ernie then concludes with one of the best lines I have seen in a long time:

Maybe they should fire all the executives at the newspapers and replace them with drug dealers. At least the drug dealers understand how to get new customers hooked on a product before exploiting them.