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back to article The iPad, news saviour? Murdoch may have something here

Rupert Murdoch, in the face of widespread scepticism, thinks he can charge for news on the internet - but what if he's right? And the dead tree publishers, the derided MSM who initially welcomed the iPad as a potential saviour - what if they were right, too? Even if only a little bit? After time spent playing with the iPad I …

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Downrated the article

..because you made me realise how much I miss my Psion Revo.

As for whether iPad news will be a substitute for a newspaper, tough call to make. I could see the free papers like Metro and Evening Standard being quicker to adopt to this than the Sun or Daily Fail, as the Metro et al already get their income from advertising and if it can save them print costs as well, then its all for the better. However, I can't see this happening for at least 18 months to 2 years, even if the iPod Chunky and AndroidPad take off . Until over 80-90% of a newspaper's readership is in a position download e-newspapers, newspapers have little to fear.

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free papers

the free papers make money from ads because those ads potentially get millions of eyeballs, not just from the person who picks it up off the news stand, but also from the person who picks it up from the seat on the tube and the person looking over his shoulder. An iPad app could supplement that, but won't make much of a difference to ad revenue for a long time. People might read the Evening Standard at home, but how many would take a second look at Metro when they get off the tube?

The Sun and Daily Mail are very different. The Sun is in the same stable as the WSJ and Rupert will want to sell the Sun's sports content. The Daily Mail has an huge customer base which would readily buy an electronic version.

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Anonymous Coward

link economy

"in our view the link economy is somewhere where there's hardly any money, but where people point at one another a lot and call it an economy"

Hmm. In some cultures, they wave bits of paper around, or even just mere electronic representations of such, and call _that_ money. Utterly daft. At least pointing is directed at a _thing_ (or an electronic representation of such), and so has greater utility than passive non-directed (e) scribblings.

OK: just because the link economy doesn't involve traditional money, doesn't mean it's not an economy.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: link economy

Well, the link economy may be all well and good in a Second Life kind of way, but from where I'm sitting it kind of fails in the sense that the currency of links does not readily exchange, at any kind of viable exchange rate, with that absurd paper stuff that might allow me to buy beer, loose cars and fast women. I obviously don't get the web...

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Anonymous Coward

@JL

I'm making an abstract point.

It's a merely a cultural habit that our chosen medium of exchange for $THINGS is a representation (in paper, or in e) of a physical object (eg gold). If we'd started off exchanging information-currency such as directions to the nearest pub, then perhaps we'd be exchanging virtual-links rather than virtual gold.

I agree that any link-economy that might exist is rather weakly coupled to our primary economy however ... perhaps only by google ads payments or something.

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Jobs Horns

tempting

And iPad and the great Australian patriot R. Murdoch?

Where's my chequebook.

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Alert

great Australian patriot?

Nuh-uh. He's not ours any more, we disown him. He's 'merkin through-and-through, he just happens to have been born in Australia. He's even got US citizenship, and doesn't have Australian citizenship any more.

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Silver badge

Not surprised if it happens

iPhone/iPad users seem willing to pay stuff they could legally get for free through other means. So why not their news?

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True

True... but there's a big difference between 'get for free' (legally or otherwise) and 'be arsed to get for free'.

If someone can put together a proposition that is of value to me -- usually by taking out some of the effort of doing it myself (e.g. I could tile my own bathroom -- done it before when I was poor -- but I can't be arsed now, so I'll pay someone), then it's worht it.

I know I _could_ get most of the news (though maybe not the informed comment -- which is why I normally buy newspapers) for free. But it takes time and effort. Time that I'd rather spend doing something else (like commenting on El Reg).

If a newspaper app can give me a good user experience, and get me the news and comment I want when I want, I'd pay.

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An "edge case" though....?

This is all well and good, however both WSJ and FT are more "trade papers" than "news papers" IMO - the people reading them do so for commercial (i.e. employment) reasons. The news they gather from these sources, the effectively make money from in their jobs.

Also, the news on this type of publication may not be available elsewhere.

So, what you have is an audience consuming industry news, that they then use to inform their working decisions and that they may not be able to get from other sources.

None of these things apply to "general news" though - this can be read from any one of a number of sources - either electronic or paper-based.

I wonder too about electronic news subscriptions? Do many people subscribe to news papers anymore (as a total of readership)? Or do they pick and choose what titles they buy and when?

For example, I'll likely pick up a red-top for a commute as it's small, cheap and provides brain-out entertainment. But at the weekend, I'll pick up a broadsheet - expensive and much more in-depth. It's the distinction between news as entertainment (Metro) and to be better informed (The Times).

I'd not subscribe to either though as I buy papers quite rarely - and I suspect that to most people "subscription" equals "lack of free choice" - why shackle yourself financially to one provider when you can act on a whim at the news-stand?

Finally, when I'm done with my paper I can pass it on to a friend or colleague or leave a magazine on a train for others, or donate it to a doctor's surgery etc. None of these things will be possible on devices like iPads....

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Anonymous Coward

I'd buy a subscription

to my chosen newspaper if it came with a card/voucher scheme whereby I could get a "free" (or near free) copy at most newsagents, along with access to an all-articles website.

Thus I get a dead tree version when I need it, and use the web when I don't. Of course, the subscription would have to be less-than or comparable-to the amount I spend on newspapers anyway. But probably my usage of tree versions would drop anyway under such a scheme.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: An "edge case" though....?

Agreed, subscription probably is a hurdle for general news. But if newspapers do go electronic, then part and parcel of that surely has to be the ability to pay for a single day's issue. The iTunes store can contrive to charge me 59p for a low-cost app, it oughtn't to be beyond the wit of man to charge me £1 for today's Telegraph, if I happen to have an attack of The Blues one morning.

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Coat

It's beyond the wit of someone

I noticed recently that Zinio are producing an iPad version of their reader software. As a result, I decided to check out the viability of switching to electronic copies of mags/newspapers I read and just chuck away.

Partly for the convenience of not having to carry copies around with me when I travel and party to avoid the inconvenience of deciding I would like to read a particular publication when travelling and then being unable to buy it.

So, picking a publication at random-ish, I investigated T3. I can buy a traditional 12 month subscription for £37 or a single issue for £4. Amazingly, I can make a massive saving by switching to the electronic version for which I can opt to pay £64 for 12 issues or £5.50 for a single one.

How can I possibly resist saving £-27 every 12 months or the even more amazing £-1.50 for a monthly fix?

I can't see how electronic publishing can fail at all, the media companies clearly have the right idea.

Or maybe not.

TBH, I'd like some of the savings for things like printing and shipping passed on to me, but I'm probably prepared by-and-large to pay the same cover price as the tree version. But given that these guys will almost certainly collect demographic data from my use of the e-version *and* probably get click-through revenue on ads, then I think they're taking the Michael a bit to charge such a huge mark-up.

Come on guys, I'm usually an early adopter and I'm just looking for an excuse to buy some more techno-fluff, but you're not helping me here.

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Anonymous Coward

RE: It's beyond the wit of someone

"I can't see how electronic publishing can fail at all, the media companies clearly have the right idea."

I guess it depends which would make the most money, printing and distributing hard copies to your exising buying market or selling electronic copies to a much smaller customer base.

Sure, all the electronic copies cost nothing to distribute but the backend systems, hosting and security costs a fortune.

As more people embrace the new distribution channels, the prices come down. Early adopters pay a premium, you should know that.

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Ooh, so close, but no banana

"Sure, all the electronic copies cost nothing to distribute but the backend systems, hosting and security costs a fortune."

Yes, if they all build their own stores, but Zinio have been going for over ten years and Amazon & Apple have extended their existing infrastructure, which costs a good deal less than new build.

If someone launches a new magazine they don't build a network of newsagents along with the distribution network, they use the infrastructure that's already there.

I'm not asking for anything particularly special here. A newspaper or magazine that is the same as the print version, except that it has clickable external (and possibly) links. The page layout is done once for both print and electronic versions and I can't see it taking more than an hour for someone to put the links in (assuming their layout software doesn't already do that, which it probably does). Yes, they might produce an enhanced electronic version if it proves successful, but the ones that are available now aren't. Sign up for a free Zinio account, download the (also free) reader and they'll give you a handful of publications for free to try it out if you want to see for yourself.

The end-user convenience technology *is* new (eBook readers, iPad, etc), but the publishing has been going on for a long time now. If it isn't cost-effective now, it never will be.

If you like figures, then this spreadsheet: http://current.com/11bdg4c shows how things work in the music market at the moment.

Briefly, for a $10 CD sold retail, $8 goes to the various parts of the retail chain and the other $2 is split between the artist and the label depending on the particular deal they have. Sell that *same* CD through iTunes and $3.71 goes to Apple to run their distribution and retail end, while $6.29 goes to the record label. And the royalties for digital sales are often lower, meaning the artist actually gets less money.

Now tell me why the same thing isn't happening in the publishing business.

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Boffin

My eyes!

I'm sue the iPad is nice for watching videos and reading a bit of text, but full newspapers and books? Tablets need transflective screens or similar to become a viable alternative medium.

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Anonymous Coward

Psion

/cries for the loss of damn-near perfection

That was 10 years ago Apple, you losers!

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FAIL

No

It's just an RSS feed with a nice frontend. Who would pay for that tripe.

Pay for content, fair enough but fragmenting the content delivery system for each publication is taking a huge step backwards.

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Some already exist

http://www.glasshouseapps.com/apps.html#t1

Seems to me to be an alternative concept, though a proper newspaper format does appeal... getting your own RSS feeds in a newspaper format is also interesting.

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Not sure

I think it really depends how loyal people are to their chosen brand of newspaper/magazine. And I think the media companies will be surprised how fickle we are when something is taken away. The Times website is nicely done, the news is solid (the comment less so), but it's not so indispensable that when Rupert's paywall goes up I'll pay for it. I might miss the Times for a couple of days, but then I'll go look elsewhere for the same information.

I can think of precious few publications so wonderful that I'd pay for them to be delivered to my computer and none that will replace paper for anything other than convenience. I'll keep with my paper magazine subscriptions because I want the actual tangible item. National Geographic on a computer screen is nothing compared to the actual magazine which I can hoard, clip or share to my heart's content.

As for the iPad; Early Edition is a great little RSS reader that assembles items into a 'paper like' format - it's the closest implementation of 'The Daily Me' I've seen so far. It still needs a bit of work - being able to assemble feeds into sections would be a nice addition.

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Silver badge

Not very probably

"I think it really depends how loyal people are to their chosen brand of newspaper/magazine."

I think the answer to that is "not very". Most newspapers rely far too heavily on news agencies like AP & Reuters for their news which means a substantial part of any newspaper can be found in identical or similar form in a hundred other places. Of what remains, 90% of that will also be found in a similar form somewhere else.

What does that leave? Articles, opinion pieces, editorials, letters and miscellanea. All can be found in abundance in any number of websites, blogs and so forth. Perhaps you have to search or use an aggregation service to get them. But I hope we're talking of reasonably intelligent people who know how to bookmark. I know I like reading the Electronic Telegraph, and the blogs in the Guardian, but if those sites didn't exist, I'd find equivalents of equal quality. I expect most other people would take a similar stance.

I couldn't give a fig if newscorp sites disappeared behind a paywall to be honest. Short of every news outlet becoming pay to click (at which point 99% of them would die from lack of subscribers) I won't pay a penny for them. They can get their money through advertising.

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FAIL

I've never read a dead tree

I've never read a dead tree paper (well occasionally 10-15 years ago). I'm 26 and throughout the years I've got my news from the TV, Radio, Teletext (remember that haha) and starting in 1999 the internet. These days I don't watch the tele and I don't listen to the radio so I get all my news online (without paying a penny). I don't see this changing any-time soon. I couldn't give a monkeys if Murdoch goes pay, good riddance, it will stop his crap cluttering up google news at least!

Even if all newspapers go paid, there is this thing called the BBC and they have a highly regarded news website that I hear is very popular. So in order for this plan to work Mr Murdoch, I think you will not only need to persuade every newspaper and news agency to go paid (never going to happen), but also have a word with your pal Cameron and get him to shut down the beeb too! If you can't compete with free you'll need to!

The cover price of "general news" newspapers covers the cost of printing, distribution and a small cut to the shop who sells. I don't equate the cover price with the value of the news it contains. The adverts pay for that.

I frequent other non news sites that make a profit from showing me ads, If the news sites can't do it to then surely they're doing it wrong!

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Dead tree editions

I've never read the dead tree editions of a newspaper either, I've been getting my news online since 1997*, nearly half my life ago. I've bought the occasional paper, but only because it's a cheap and effective disposable nesting material for my pet rats. The idea of sitting down with a square metre of paper, to *read* it, feels rather strange and unsettling.

In fact, the whole idea of *paying* for news feels weird and foreign, like it's what those strange yankees do, not decent respectable people like us. News has always been free in my experience, and I can't see that ever changing.

*Australian Broadcasting Corporation, been doing news online since '97.

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Anonymous Coward

We all pay when noone pays

I think that this kind of innovation is going to be necessary for the general good of the population. If no one is paying for reporters, researchers, fact checker etc, then the overall quality of our news will be degraded. How many scandals and major events of the last 100 years would have never come to light if it wasn't for the dedicated teams of news people around the world, working for days or weeks on end, pouring through reports looking for inconsistencies, and then letting the world know what they found?

If this type of reporting is left to the average blogger, there will be no confidence left in the news. Or worse, people will actually transfer the trust they have in legitimate news over to the bloggers, leaving us one step away from everyone being forced to believe whatever Fox News tells them.

It's important to have that class of well paid, dedicated people working to keep our companies and our governments honest through accurate reporting of the news. And it is becoming fairly clear that it's incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to pay for these people with a web full of free news and aggregators.

If you want your news reduced to press releases, poorly conceived op-ed pieces, and 3 paragraph blurbs about car crashes and fires, by all means, push for the free web. If you want fact checking, in depth analysis by professionals, and accountability from government and corporations, suck it up, and realize that someone has to pay for it.

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Grenade

Well said AC @ 18th May 2010 14:36 GMT

However, we are currently in the situation where we both pay AND get the spoon fed, press-release crap.

Few if any paid-for news sources bother to spend money on getting a real journalist to fact check. Its not just down to money (the Sun and the Mirror both sell a lot of copies, for some completely unknown reason) as time to print is the biggest killer.

How can a news outlet justify delaying an article when it risks being trumped to an "exclusive" "breaking news" type headline. Instead they rush out any old crap and, if needed, eventually trickle through clarifications and corrections at a later date.

Fack checking and in-depth analysis hasnt happened in mainstream news for a loooooong time....

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Coat

On the other hand...

"How many scandals and major events of the last 100 years would have never come to light if it wasn't for the dedicated teams of news people around the world, working for days or weeks on end, pouring through reports looking for inconsistencies, and then letting the world know what they found?"

I bet Jeff Jarvis would be happy. Instead we'd be having a great "conversation" about goldfish, or underwear, or HTML5.

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Silver badge
Linux

Meh

The quality of journalism has been declining for a long time. Newspapers were their own worst enemy before the Internet made it to the commercial mainstream. If anything, the communication that the Internet facilitates simply allows us to be more aware of just how bad journalism has gotten. Dead tree news also has to compete with cable news and the 24 hour news cycle. This aspect of journalism also predates the net.

What will save journalism is real journalists, not bean counters and robber barons throwing up paywalls.

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Yes

We pay, but at least where I live, not much. The newspapers and magazines are so desperate for revenue that they give away newspapers for free, and magazine subscriptions for the cost of postage, just to sell the advertising space. I get 3 different newspapers delivered to my house (2 of them once a week, and the other Fridays and Saturdays) every week for free. And I had some family working in the papers. They have all moved on. Declining revenue meant many cuts over the years.

And as for magazines, I just got a subscription to a fairly popular magazine, one year, for 8 coke bottle caps. 8. I spent 8 bucks for a years subscription, and it include 16 liters of delicious coke.

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The national broadcaster

here in Australia, the ABC, provides the news* for free and it's generally the highest-quality reporting in the country. They have a mandate to "inform, educate and entertain" the populace. The government provides their budget which is what keeps this service free and it would be politically nearly impossible for any government to eliminate the ABC. This gives ABC freedom and independence so as a result they are the only news organisation in the country willing to really hold the government's (or corporation's) feet to the fire over any issue.

It's got a fair bit in common with the BBC, except with a lot more independence and no TV license fee. Oh, and no manufactured "celebrities".

I think this demonstrates that it is possible to have tax-funded high-quality reporting without additional costs to the reader. As a bonus, the tards obsessed with which celebrity is screwing who will turn to the commercial news sources, allowing the ABC to provide real news for the rest of us.

*And in-depth analysis, and various news-related programs like Mediawatch and Four Corners

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Silver badge
Thumb Up

*blink*

You've convinced me.

I thought it was impossible, but this really is what that ridiculous iPad thing is for. The single flat touchscreen would be a perfect way to browse a news _package_, rather than just websites. A newspaper is not just about the receipt of the data, it's about making portable, flippable data available as a package (including surprises, extras and ads) that is easy and relaxing to thumb through on the Tube or the train or over breakfast.

A laptop or netbook cannot replicate that, neither can a phone. Finally, I see the point.

However... the basic hardware price needs to be beaten severely with a stick before this becomes a viable news vector. Maybe an Android or Win7 slate can deliver that; it's clear that Apple can't or won't.

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FAIL

ipad vs Pete Doherty

It used to be Pete Doherty being in the news all the time for the wrong reasons. Now we have the ipad. Can you leave us alone? We are not interested? Do we have to buy another piece of hardware that can't even use flash and runs one application at a time? You stand a better chance to convince me to buy a breadmaker. Unless apple is lining someone's pockets here.

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Paris Hilton

I haven't bought a newspaper for years ...

... but when I did I found it a pleasane experience to sit and daunder through stories that did not tell me anything new at all and were mostly out of date anyway (I prefer Radio 4 in UK).

But what was interesting was the relaxing experience of sitting down with a dead tree product after committing half an hour to do it.

It was good, but I don't think I will try it too often and those smudgy print inks still seem smudgy and staining all the same.

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Bronze badge

Well, Maybe

Something in this general direction may work out well.

But looking at the specifics of this, it seems to have two big problems. Would people buy an iPad just for this, people who would be more likely to already have a netbook or laptop? Would people be more inclined to pay for access to a newspaper which removed the added value of having convenient web-like hyperlinks?

I think that newspapers will eventually start pulling free content from the web that they haven't been able to monetize; at present, I consider that the free content is being treated as a way to maintain an Internet presence because they are concerned that the Internet is the wave of the future and are hoping a business model will present itself. So this won't go on forever; they know they're shooting themselves in the foot, but the alternative seems worse.

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Thumb Down

Why am I not surprised.

A dodgy guy looking to control the media and shape the news so that it reflects his warped sense of "unbiased" reporting sucking up to someone hellbent on controlling every little thing people do on his overpriced, overhyped hardware.

Why does this not surprise me and also make my spine quiver?

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Silver badge
FAIL

You get what you pay for

And in old Rupe's case that's not much at all.

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WTF?

why a bespoke app per title

Why do the papers and mags insist on rolling out their own applications? Branding would be a plausible reason, were it not for them ruining their brand by offering useability nightmare apps which invariably crash when you least expect it.

Leave the app and UI concerns to an expert and just sell them the content... Hang on that sounds a lot like pressdisplay - Newspapers, but electronically delivered:

pressdisplay.com

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Ho ho

Sounds like money for old rupe...

(H/t Private Eye)

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Flame

fire lighters

The Daily Telegraph's newsprint and sheet size is perfect for lighting the fire at home. Get Saturday's and you have more than a weeks' worth of material to go under your kindling.

Maybe shorting the iPad's massive batteries could do the same job.

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Solution

I'd buy an iPad if it would kill off Rupert Murdoch.

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My 2 cents

a) To read about ash clouds, elections and Thai flavored democracy (general news) I'll never pay or even subscribe for free, as there are many sources, from 24H news channels and radio to web sites.

b) For in-depth articles, analysis from specialists and opinions by relevant people I would pay (isn't this why many people by the "heavy" newspapers today?)

c) To a sub-set of the above I'd probably subscribe, but I'd occasionally want to buy more newspapers/magazines.

d) I would want to have access to the old issues I'd bought. A subscription would be more appealing if it included a search feature, even better if it went beyond the issues I "owned".

e) Full "page" ads between artificial pages of an article are very annoying, and my instinct will be to ignore them and immediatly move to the next page.

F) This won't kill free news on the Web, in an extreme case it will only mean that Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc will pay news agencies like Reuters for the content. The most probable scenario is that many news organizations will continue to have a Web presence, but only with the general news/without in-depth articles

All this, however, only with a 100-200 Euros Pad/slate..

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Thumb Down

2 sides to this coin

Reading through the story and comments both, I see a distinct pattern. There are many people (including myself) who quite simply don't read dead wood and never will, lets call these people "younguns". Then there are the "broadsheets" who will read the papers for the sake of their profession because it will actually impact their day.

I am of the mind that the latter will not change their pattern as it's what they know and it works, even though there is a whole plethora of free news that is made by industry professionals, sources checked, citations (when did you ever see one of these in a paper?!) and most of all free.

What I'm trying to say is, the newspaper (as we know it) really is dying and within a couple of generations the providers of "news" are going to have to change or step up their game. This just reminds me of the whole "downloading music" debate, clutching at loose straws. There are many here who talk about the "effort" needed to view free news, ever heard of an RSS feed? That's all this is after all...

I for one will never sink my teeth in to such a sorry excuse to try and push news. For niche news, this will perhaps work but, not for every single publisher having their own app...just fail. Is the world really this lazy and uneducated to eat such slop?

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