Apple’s massive Ipod won’t save newspapers; your Grandad already has… maybe.
I start this post with a slight dilemma. Two stories have dominated the trending charts and newsfeeds for the last 48 hours. The first of which has and will continue to blitzkrieg our Twitter pages and newsfeeds in a co-ordinated attack from the Apple PR Luftwaffe and a Panzer division on the ground of feverishly expectant fan boys. I have been wrestling for some minutes now with whether to leave the whole subject alone and give all ten of you a nice rest from it, you and I will find out shortly what my decision is.
The second I am not in the slightest bit qualified to comment on, but…..
Criminally I have never read Catcher in the Rye, but my housemate who when not proofing these tomes studies English speaks in hushed reverential tones when extolling the virtues of Salinger’s masterpiece. I am certainly no scholar of literature but from what I’ve been told this man was the real deal, and despite my total ignorance of his work and his withdrawal from public life decades ago the world is always a slightly worse place when someone of his influence and talent leaves it. So Bon Voyage and Bon Chance JD Salinger wherever you’re off to next.
Ok… The oversized Ipod it is… don’t moan it’s that or the John Terry thing. And I think I covered fornicating sports stars and super injunctions in the Tiger Woods post back in December…. I’m doing it for you dear readers.
But to save you from total Apple apathy I’ll try to look their latest contraption from a slightly different angle.
The gum-flapping post touchdown in the papers and online has focused on its ability to come to the rescue of ailing newspapers. A man from the New York Times was wheeled out, tasked with introducing a platform slick enough to monetise online newspaper content thus saving the industry he loves. Poor bastard.
Now we all know the problem: newspapers are up shit creek because declines in circulation are being compounded by the recession-inspired advertising slump. As a result thousands of journalism jobs have gone, the airwaves are full of untrained bedroom bloggers and niche sites catering to every interest scattering readerships like dust in the wind, and as a result society as we know it will cease to exist, the machines will rise up and we’ll be wiped out in a generation.
Many are foretelling the death of print newspapers; proprietors are waving their arms around jabbering about “paywalls”, “micropayments” and super local news whilst ruing the day they ever stuck carbon-copy versions of their newspapers online for nothing.
It’s little wonder that important people from publishing behemoths like the New York Times are sheepishly getting on stage in front of millions to throw some mud at the situation with the hope that a bit sticks.
The message being sent out is that the future of the defining instrument in the proliferation of mass communication is in the hands of a contraption whose name evokes images of feminine hygiene products.
The Internet is the scapegoat for this impending doom, but I fear Rupert, Steve, Arthur and the rest of them may be barking up the wrong trees.
Newspaper circulations have been on the wane in this country (the UK) for years. There are all sorts of reasons behind this, but it certainly isn’t just the Internet. For example between 1970 and 1997 the Daily Telegraph lost 300,000 readers, between 1997 and the present day it has lost a further 200,000. Figures don’t lie, it would be easy to attribute the most recent drop to the rapid increase in the number of people with home and office internet seen in that period but what explains the dip between ’70 and ’97?
It’s the same story across the board. If you don’t believe me Audited figures for UK Newspaper and Magazine circulation are available here.
Going back to Apple’s creation and its inevitable pretenders, there is a major flaw in the assertion that it can take over as the medium in which people read their news.
In 1945 Grandfathers returned from far afield with a glint in their eyes, and loins hot to the touch, Grandma obliged and with no magic pill to stop Pop’s platoon from liberating her Southern front a lot of women found themselves “in the family way”.
This baby “boom” generation, who will soon outnumber the young are now retiring; they have swelling bank accounts topped up by final salary pensions and the profit made from selling a house they bought for “tuppence ha’penny” for an absolute fortune.
In essence these are going to be the people companies want to advertise at. Modern medicine will keep the buggers going and active and the man from the Pru will give them the funds to do it. While we all count the cost of a decade of excess they’ll be laughing all the way to their next SAGA cruise funded by a mortgage you are selling vital organs to pay off.
Barring a few technically savvy pioneers, this generation will, as they always have done read their news in print. The average reader demographic that newspapers use when selling ad space will change and marketers will quickly latch on to the fact the best way to attract this lucrative captive audience is through good old-fashioned print media.
So to conclude this merry rambling; Apple have not saved newspapers, socioeconomics will do that for them. Millions will buy the thing, a proportion of those may even pay to read the news through newspaper apps, the vast majority though will continue as usual, those who read newspapers will read newspapers everyone else will go online in the traditional, non-appy sense for free.
Newspapers lost the battle before it started, engineering their own downfall by giving it away for free in the first place, then making it better and better, giving us video, the ability to comment and all the other whizz-bang things that make reading news online such a pleasurable experience.
Their future lies in tapping in to the lucrative and numerous older genera tion in the print form, and doing everything they can to bring yoof-centric advertisers over to online for the rest of us.
Either that or I’m just talking bollocks…
The eagle eyed amongst you will notice I managed to write this without mentioning its name once… aren’t I clever?
Also this, below, sums it all up nicely.