Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Last week - magazine suck on tablets. This week: tablets can save the newspaper business

If you believe Google, the newspaper industry has been in decline since 1972 and that online journalism as a threat to newspapers is only a continuation of broadcast journalism’s inexorable encroachment, but that newspapers have a new opportunity to profit from old-school long-form journalism by paying special attention to tablets. So says Google Chief Economist Hal Varian in this speech.

Although printing and distribution costs are decimated by the shift to online news, competition is exponentially fiercer. To fight the advance of bloggers, citizen journalists, and other competition, newspapers have resorted to publishing shorter, shallower pieces to cater to the traditionally attention span-stunted Internet public. This has largely compromised the “analytic depth” the printed word affords. Varian suggests that it doesn’t have to be this way -- by focusing on tablets and other innovative ways to keep eyeballs glued to the news, online journalism can step up profits even while rescuing the Fourth Estate from irrelevance.

Roger Fidler was one of the original proponents of these portable "electronic tablets" when he ran the Knight Ridder Information Design Lab in the early 1990s. These devices, known as 'flat panels' or 'tablets,' will combine the readability and convenience of paper with the technological abilities of video and sound. In the same way that ink-on-paper printing has defined the present era, it now appears certain that electronic 'presses' and multimedia publishing will define the new one," Fidler wrote in an October 1992 AJR article called "What Are We So Afraid Of?" In October, the Society for News Design presented Fidler, a founding member of SND, with its Lifetime Achievement Award for his groundbreaking and innovative work.
Fidler started his journalism career in 1962 writing and illustrating a science column for Oregon's Eugene Register-Guard. The following year, he also began writing feature stories and creating maps for the paper while attending the University of Oregon. Fidler had originally planned to become an astronomer, but a chronic illness that he developed in high school forced him to switch his major to journalism. In 1990 he produced an animated video of a tablet newspaper scenario in collaboration with RayChem, a company that was developing an electronic paper display technology. A year later, Fidler became a Freedom Forum Media Studies Fellow at Columbia University. There he created an operational prototype of a digital newspaper optimized for his media tablet. He frequently demonstrated the prototype on Macintosh computers.

Read the full article here on SlashGear. And check out the forward-looking video here.

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