back to article Can the iPad save newspapers?

Some obituaries of the late Steve Jobs praised the Apple founder as saviour of the newspaper industry. That’s hard to justify. While one of Jobs’ achievement was undoubtedly exploding the idea that people won’t pay for digital stuff, a newspaper business “saved” by the iPad won’t look anything like the old newspaper business. It …


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  1. Robert E A Harvey


    I am /never/ going to pay anything like as much for pixels as for a physical object. I might consider a pound a month for a local paper, and about half that for a national one. If it turned out to be worth reading.

    I can use old newspapers to clean windows, line the budgie cage, and crumpled to make packaging material. Try that with a bunch of pixels.

    I think it is far too late to start a subscription model for web news services. The newspapers could have established the habit in 1995, but not now. In effect you would be paying for the columnists and commentators, not for the raw news, like you do with physical papers. And why would commentators not start subscription blogs and keep /all/ the money?

    As you say, part 94.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Robert E A Harvey

      >I think it is far too late to start a subscription model for web news services

      I suspect like me you are of a certain age that grew up with hard copy newspapers. However the generation that are following us have probably never even touched a real newspaper in their life and it is these who are likely to be the majority of subscribers.

      I can't remember the last time I bought a newspaper but while the Telegraph remains free I can't see myself subscribing to a digital one. Even then, there will most likely be other free sources of news

      1. Robert E A Harvey

        @Chris W

        Yes, we are probably of an age.

        But I was referring to the 15 years or more of getting free newsfeeds off the web. I don't think the paywall idea will become a widely accepted commercial reality unless they all change at once.

        Its all very weird: Reuters are cutting their own throats with bypassing their own customers (the newspapers) and giving it away for nowt!

    2. Hardcastle the ancient

      I like the idea that national news is worth half what local news is. But boringly, I guess you are thinking of market size?

    3. The Indomitable Gall

      @Robert E A Harvey

      "I think it is far too late to start a subscription model for web news services."

      You are mostly right... if you assume that the goal of web subscriptions is to get web users.

      Since News International announced their paywall, I have always maintained that they did so not with a view to getting web subscribers, but iPad subscribers.

      Stopping offering free stuff causes resentment among users of the free, but freetard web users are a market NI could afford to use. They needed to have the free out of the way before the start of the slab-fondling fad to ensure that they weren't taking the free stuff away from the executive slab-fondling set, because they are a core demographic for white-top newspapers.

      The figures agree with my predictions -- it's a strategy that has worked. Other newspapers now have the problem of part of their slab-fondlers being used to having the free web edition available, and it's going to hard to push that segment to the subscription model.

  2. Pete 2

    Can't go soon enough

    Hopefully when physical newspapers do die, their political clout will die with them. While the online "name" will still provide an outlet for foreign owners to rant on about how they think our country should be run, a little iPad screen doesn't have anything like the gravitas of a broadsheet.

    Plus, you can't swat flies with a fondleslab. (Is there an app for that?)

    1. Anonymous Coward

      You *can* swat flies with an iPad, just don't expect apple to uphold the warranty.

      1. cloudgazer

        There's a zap for that.|cat:146040|prd:146040

  3. Magnus_Pym

    Reducing asset

    For a long while Newspapers (and I use the term loosely) have been buying content. That is to say, paying for leaked secrets, paying for kiss-and-tell and printing lies then settling out of court. The size of their bank balance and therefore their legal clout protects them and, more importantly their contributors. As the market reduces, the profit reduces and with it the ability to buy content and protect contributors. The 'quality' of the scoops inevitably falls and the public interest is not piqued, advertisers move away, profits fall. It's a vicious cycle and I hope it is one that quickly overtakes the lot of 'em.

    1. The Indomitable Gall

      Editor's proofreading notes.

      "The 'quality' of the scoops inevitably falls and the public interest is not piqued"

      Surely the quality "increases"? I mean, once we can't buy celebrities' voicemail and medical records, we'll have to go back to reporting *real news*. I agree that the public interest won't be piqued, though... :-(

      1. Magnus_Pym

        Quality was in inverted commas for this very reason. Although the term quality is very hard to define and it may be argued that the quality of a headline is it's ability to part idiots from their cash.

  4. HP Cynic

    Ironically my "Guardian Zeitgeist" app has not worked for several days now.

    It was quite good in the past and crucially it was free.

  5. Craig McGill 1

    What about PressReader

    PressReader is a great iPad app - you get the papers as they look in print but can tap on the headlines to see them in a straight text style too. Doesn't have all the papers in the UK or world - but it has bloody plenty of them.

    I'm on the £18 a month scheme and that's saved me a fortune in paper costs - of course I have no idea how the press are making money from it, which brings us back to the problem in the article.

    This was never a failure of journalism mind you - it was a failure of the advertising and marketing departments who never thought to try things like affiliate stores and so on. They were too greedy and got caught for it.

  6. Joe K


    You used the stupid/offensive word "freetard" yet again, i stopped reading there.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      ..if he'd said "fanboi" you'd have lapped it up?

    2. Mme.Mynkoff

      Quick! Give the man some Kleenex

      It's very insensitive of Andrew to upset people like this.


  7. Christian Berger Silver badge

    It's not a question of distribution

    It's a question of content. If "news papers" are able to deliver interesting content continuously, they will be read. If they just print what other newspapers are talking about, they will die, eventually.

    It's not important how you distribute it, at least not in the long run. Right now you might have people finding the same old news interesting, just because it's on their fondleslabs.

    1. Cpt Blue Bear


      On both counts.

      Plus (in the spirit of Freetard and Paytard) Slabtards are self selecting as both able and willing to spend cash on toys. I'm so hip, I read the Guardian / Times / Daily Fascist on my iPad. But what happens when the novelty wears off and it's got to sell on content alone?

      Not saved the industry, just given the dead cat to bounce off.

  8. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Down


    Going the way of his ancestors.

    And not before time.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      you would like to think so

      but it isn't happening - his much-maligned and derided paywall seems to be working (better than the competition) - as the article says

  9. Muscleguy Silver badge

    in the future . . .

    When the iPad goes 3D you could have iFrog, a 3D frog which hurls a 3D tongue at errant flies and scares them away. I offer this idea for an App free of all rights and patents.

  10. John King 1

    All about the money

    “You can’t fund 1,000 people with £10-per-month subscriptions.”

    I'm sure you can if you don't want to give yourself a £20m+ bonus every year. The model is sustainable as long as you take greed out of the equation.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      what planet do you live on?

      If one of their senior editors suggested that, s/he'd be an ex-employee and out-the-door before the end of the meeting.

  11. Tim Brown 1


    Where does the figure of 111,036 subscriptions for The Times come from? News International are notoriously secretive about this sort of data.

    Does it take account of the fact that they give the sub to free to any subscribers to the real paper?

    1. System 10 from Navarone


      Good point - and buying phantom 'readers' to make circulation figures look impressive is nothing new to News Corps:

  12. Syren Baran

    What a bloody stupid question

    Arguing about the price of the digital distribution is ignoring the most relevant part of the cost.

    You need around 500£ to get the reader. Most people have no use for a pad. And getting a pad solely for newspapers is about as dumb as it gets. It weighs more, it requires electricity. You can´t throw it away after reading. You gotta carry it around all day. Newspapers don´t crash or create weird technical problems the average user does´nt understand.

    Once you got such a device comparing digital vs. paper makes sense. Getting a pad for the sole reason of reading newspaper makes no sense.

  13. Chris 3

    The value proposition..

    "So the value proposition is clear: a tenner for offline content."

    I'm trying out the Guardian on an iPad at the moment, for me the value proposition is two-fold - it's quite a lot cheaper than a paper copy and it is delivered to my breakfast table by 6am each morning. These are both reasonable reasons to consider it.

    Personally, I still prefer the paper version, but the early morning delivery makes it quite tempting.

    1. Pete B

      "I'm trying out the Guardian on an iPad at the moment"

      One query - does IOS correct the spelling mistakes in the grauniad?

    2. Robert E A Harvey

      but that's half a quid a day for something that doesn't exist. 5p, maybe. 50p, no.

  14. Nigel R

    it's getting there...

    I acquired an iPad without really planning for it and now read the Times & ST on it regularly.

    Coming round to the idea of being able to zoom any image to full screen to really appreciate the photography, and also avoiding the tombstone of paper that I used to buy for the ST.

    IPad is heavier than one would like, slab needs to be come a slip and will soon no doubt.

    From the newspaper publisher's perspective, they can now measure the dwell time as I do/don't scam past ads not to mention the prospect of regional and demographic targeting that have not even commenced.

    Times & ST apps are rather immature now, compared to where they should / will be one day, absolutely no doubt that the paper paper will be extinct in 10 years.

  15. Rentaguru

    that's odd

    The Grauniad on my android phone and slab are both ready for me when I wake up (and if I don't remember to silence the buggers the beeb wakes me up at 5pm). I suspect that the ipad will do the same if the user takes the time to set the preferences.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Newspapers? Who cares? They've been nothing but pointless echo-chambers for, oh, 350 years or so. They should pay us to look at the adverts in between the mindless scribblings of failed politicians. I can get that from the blogosphere for nothing, if I wanted it for some reason.

  17. Colin Millar

    Wrong question

    The problem with the industry is nothing to do with format. Nor does it matter in the long run if print media lives or dies. The real problem is the increasing corporatisation of the media.

    People think that politicians are the playthings of the media. Well the mass news media itself is constrained by the journalistic model it has adopted since the eighties. It is a reactive, populist model which chases numbers by pandering to and reinforcing the prejudices of the masses it seeks out as customers. News is a secondary consideration, human touch has been replaced with the celebrity journalist and judgement is left to the lawyers.

  18. Roger Varley

    How do you

    do the Telegraph crossword on an slab?

    1. Rentaguru

      permanent marker

      and sandpaper

    2. Pete 2

      Felt tip marker and a bottle of tippex?

    3. TheTick
      Thumb Up

      Re: How do you

      Quite easily, they have a lovely crossword section where you tap on one of the clue numbers at the side and it highlights the relevant squares, then just type the answer. You can change individual letters just by tapping on the square.

      I love the Telegraph crossword on the iPad and the software is finally getting stable. It was a nightmare in the beginning though, constant crashes to desktop on an older iOS version.

      It's worth the ~£10 a month for me, the Telegraph has good journalism with my preferred right-wing slant, minimal ads (none if you navigate via the panels on the left), no bulky papers annoying people to the side of me on the tube/bus, and of course the crossword.

  19. Dus

    errrm , how many times subscribers are actually sky subscribers who got the times thing bundled in and don't really want it and may not even use it?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Too little, too late

    Surely it's a little late for anything to pick up the slack of a decade's worth of overspending and ignoring the inevitable future. Well, guess what, the future is now.

    As long as these companies which have got used to a certain level of.. opulence, let's say, continue to spend beyond their means then there's only one outcome. Failure to compete and make profit can only have one result. And the blame only lies at the feet of the one that takes no action, or rather takes action too late.

  21. Ned Fowden

    Metro for free

    I always enjoyed picking this up for free on the tube and now it's on newsstand too for the same cost

    works for me

  22. jobi

    not the website content?

    where as the iphone app has only given you the ability to cache a subset of the website content, the ipad app offers you pretty much the full content of the mon-sat newspapers.

    i'd say that at £9.99 a month, if you are a regular guardian reader anyway, then that's a steal.

  23. Wibble

    Things I've learned 1: you gets whats yer pays for

    I subscribed to the Grauniad on my Kindle but find that I prefer reading it on my iPad. As all content on my Kindle is synced to my iPad against my account it costs no extra, so I've continued with my subscriptions.

    I never buy newspapers but have really enjoyed reading the content on my electronic devices. More importantly I've now learned that the point about paying for content is that the quality is massively better. A tenner a month for the newspapers is about right IMHO. Any more and I'd probably not bother.

    I'm puzzled as to why £10/month isn't enough as surely the production and distribution costs of news paper is astronomic when compared with digital distribution.

  24. Jamie Kitson


    Do you have any idea what the Kindle Guardian numbers are like? That gets pushed to my device. Unfortunately I think it means that I end up reading less of it as I don't even buy/read it on the weekends any more.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What, 700MB?

    Are they scanning the paperback issue?

    I dare to ask, in BMP format?

    Is all of that pictures? Because ASCII text would take very few KB.

  26. Mike Flugennock

    I have an idea or two for how newspapers can save themselves...

    Make themselves relevant again.

    Stop disinforming us. Stop printing state/corporate propaganda. Do more investigative reporting. Stop slobbering over celebrity escapades.

    That's what'll _really_ save newspapers (not that I expect them to actually do it). No amount of whizzy fondleslab editions nor putting their content behind paywalls will do it.

  27. Maty

    The Economist

    You can get the news almost anywhere these days. I like the Economist for its thoughtful and very well-informed opinions of what the news is going to be. (I still remember reading in 2008 'Three reasons why the euro might fail -'Greece, Greece, and Greece.')

    The Economist was hard to find in the Canadian backwoods - now it's literally on tap .

    Works for me.

  28. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    @newspapers can save themselves...

    My guess is that The Economist and Private Eye would be the ones to survive digital.

    Tabloids are the ones that should really worry. When you can get video of trash TV on your phone why would you buy a text version of the same thing for more money?

  29. Dropper

    We do need them saved

    Truth is without newspapers there will be almost no real reporting of the kind we absolutely do need. TV news is almost non-existent. In the US in particular it has been completely replaced by tabloid and entertainment news shows. There are quite literally no news channels worthy of the name left there. Time and time again you'll see some bimbo (male or female) doing absolutely no fact checking, allowing so-called experts say whatever they please, misinforming whomever is watching to a staggering degree.

    Which I suppose is fine if everyone is happy with politicians and the CEOs of large corporates doing exactly as they please without consequence. People in power tend to get away with whatever they like until someone loud points it out to the rest of us. Law enforcement has no interest in anything that looks complicated, and will pointedly ignore the rich and powerful until it becomes too embarrassing to do so. The people that bring these stories into the open work for newspapers. These stories are then picked up by TV (occasionally) or bloggers (if their research extends beyond Google searches to reading papers) and this forces a reaction.

    So if there is a way to at least save the reporters that do the real work, find the real stories and force the rest of us to take notice, then we should absolutely do it even if it means paying a few pennies a day to view newspaper websites.

    1. Mike Flugennock

      re: We do need them saved

      "Truth is without newspapers there will be almost no real reporting of the kind we absolutely do need..."

      D'ahh, c'mon. There's almost no real reporting in US newspapers _now_. Have you seen the New York Times lately? The mouthpiece of the rich and powerful, cheerleading for every goddamn' war or cracked-ass neoliberal economic scheme that comes down the pike. Two of their higher-profile reporters have been caught plagiarizing, faking stories and/or acting as state mouthpieces.

      Myself, I live in Washington, DC, and we don't call the Washington Post "Pravda On The Potomac" for nothing.

      US television "news" is down the toilet for sure -- I haven't regularly watched any TV "news" in nearly 20 years; when I want to find out what's happening in the US, I watch/read Al Jazeera -- but US newspapers aren't that much better.

      "Law enforcement has no interest in anything that looks complicated, and will pointedly ignore the rich and powerful until it becomes too embarrassing to do so. The people that bring these stories into the open work for newspapers..."

      I hate to break this to you, but these days -- at least in the US -- the job of "reporters" is to parrot the state/corporate line, avoid asking difficult questions, hide the truth whenever possible, and divert readers' attention to phony "issues" (like the recent "debt ceiling" soap opera). If you can get CSPAN where you are, try tuning in to a Presidential press conference and listen to the wussy-assed softball questions the "reporters" ask.

      In some ways, the discussion of whether or not digital tablet editions and digital paywalls will save newspapers -- vis a vis the quality of the content -- is like the big buzz around the advent of digital/widescreen TV: there was a lot of huzzah about how crisp and clear and pretty the image is, but at the end of the day, it was still a 1080x720 digital hi-def telecast of Two And A Half Men.

  30. Anonymous Coward


    Well, people should learn to read first, then maybe newspapers with some content would survive. Niche is the only way to go because mainstream reading is out. The fact of the matter is lots of people suffer from a societal attention deficit disorder, and can't read past 140 chars and they gaze at a picture for minutes at a time, before deciding to + 1 it in their mind, or otherwise mindlessly stare at colorful status updates and they need some color and music at the same time otherwise it's dull. No they're dull.

    It used to be writing was a profession and people would be interested in deepening their knowledge of a subject. Now all they think about is watching images of an event and that's supposedly akin to knowledge. If an idea is not linked to some multimedia, then that idea doesn't exist. Worst, they want someone who speaks, dresses and talks like them to deliver the information because they can't stand intellectual authority, enter blogs, exit specialists. I'll concede there are exquisitely sophisticated blogs out there.

    But what a miserable world this has become. Limiting the access to education and lowering what's expected of students and teachers and curriculum serves those who want to make the Ipad and such devices relevant for publishing. Stories will never be told the same way as before... no kidding, you'll press a button to play an episode of Family guy for your child and that'll pretty much sum it up. As if real artists and storytellers are going to have the publishing muscle to embrace that tech... nah, it's the studios and amazon that are going to do the storytelling, and soon they'll be delivering the news too... in 3D crap. Idiocracy.

  31. Colin Sutton

    good news

    The ipad apps iht and smh are both free and up-to-date. The iht is us-entric, has quality writers and lengthy articles, I don't know how they are paid. The smh is becoming more tabloid, too many pictures for the sake of it. It's subsidised by advertisers - for this year.

  32. John 62

    Physical papers do have a use

    Great as firelighters. The Telegraph as a broadsheet is particularly versatile, also being useful for covering the floor when painting and stuff.

    I'd get fat and poor if I had to buy chips to get paper for lighting the fire.

  33. halfbaked

    Must it be subscriptions?

    I have no problem with paying for a newspaper or an article online. But why does the only method have to be by subscription? I can walk into a newsagent and buy a Times,or Guardian (or Economist or Viz or New Scientist) as I please. The internet is supposed to be a step forward, why does it have to force me to sign up to monthly charges?

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