Look at the traditional newspaper and news industry. 20 years after the public internet exploded onto the world, once prosperous news organizations are suffering or have shuttered their doors while a few have made a transition to become a lesser creature living off the crumbs of online advertising. Is Apple helping the news industry or hurting the industry?
The Nature Of Change
Change is a bitch. Those in the railroad industry forgot what they provided to people– transportation– and failed to adopt to changes in technology; automobiles, trucks, and airplanes.
Likewise, technology has helped the traditional print and broadcast news industry to prosper for decades, and now technology threatens to bring them down. A few years ago, when Apple introduced Newsstand to iPhone and iPad, I thought Apple was attempting to help the traditional news and information industries, but that’s been an abysmal failure; an app which is hardly noticed or used by the masses.
For iOS 9, Apple has introduced a new app which looks and feels much like the popular Flipboard app for iPhone and iPad, but, sad to say, doesn’t work as well, and I’m not convinced that Apple’s model will help the industry anyway.
Here’s a problem. News, information, and entertainment have become commodities and people don’t want to pay for what is available somewhere else for free. YouTube? Free. And the younger generation is using YouTube to replace content and entertainment that once came with a price tag. Most news and entertainment organizations have apps to deliver their content, which, on the surface would seem to make more of their wares available to the masses, but the business model is unproven and has done little to stem the tide of change.
Here’s another part of the problem. With so much content freely available in whatever form, content itself has become devalued. The Wall Street Journal and New York Times and many other formerly great news organizations run suspect and controversial content simply to gin up page views for the sake of advertising revenue. Broadcast organizations are not exempt, either. Fox News and MSNBC are not so much about news coverage as they are agenda building. Somewhat more traditional CNN has suffered at the hands of change, itself a victim of sensationalist over rationalism.
Where does Apple stand in the battle raging around information and entertainment? Apple pays lip service to the former, and makes money on the latter, so it’s easy to see why the iTunes business is such a big hit, why Newsstand failed miserably, and why the upcoming News app already has critics lined up to bash it at birth. Apple News in its current form is little more than a bundled RSS reader. While Flipboard has become popular because of its ease of use and its limited magazine-like advertising, I find myself skimming far more than reading, and that’s another danger when information and entertainment have become mere commodities for the masses.
What I want with news, information, and entertainment is already available but often overlooked by critics and readers alike. Apps. Or, rather, an app collective app, a simple way to select and then view or read many different news, information, and entertainment sources with a few taps or clicks, and without being hounded by obnoxious in-your-face advertising, and the fear of being tracked by unscrupulous advertisers (Google, I’m looking at you and your crowd).
I have a few folders on my iPad which are home to a growing number of website apps; news, information, entertainment. That’s my collective, and I’m willing to bounce between apps, and be assaulted with advertising because I want to learn, be informed, and be entertained. Apple’s Newsstand tried to do something similar, but the ongoing price tag was too high. Content is a commodity and paying for even good content has become an unwanted exercise. Another fear is that Apple doesn’t care. The company is all about turning a profit on what it designs, builds, and distributes, and attempts to help the news and information components of the content industry have been anemic for a reason. There’s no money in it anymore.