Two news items this week shine some light in the vacuum that has been innovation in the news industry:
* The announcement this week that Time Inc., Conde Nast, the Hearst Corporation, Meredith and the News Corporation are developing an industry standard electronic platform to display their wares. The interesting thing about this is not that they’ve developed something new that may be workable, but the fact that these five companies had the mettle to work together to come up with a platform that has the potential to bring give the industry a means to attract and maintain new readers, based on the readers’ demands.
Judging from the video, the new platform also recognizes the future of news means being able to tell a story in a number of formats: Words, videos, audio, interactive graphics and apps, etc:
* In San Francisco, a novelist and publisher is launching a broadsheet newspaper that takes the spirit of the Sunday paper — big, splashy, with expanded features including a book review section. It’s not cheap at $16 a copy, but the publisher hopes it will remind people of the potential of print.
Granted, the San Francisco venture is the trickier of the two — I believe you’ll need a lot to convince new readers of the potential of print — but again you have to give credit to anyone trying something new and different.
After viewing the demo of Time Inc and partners’ platform venture, it is quite splashy and cool. But I can also hear a cacophony of publishers, after looking at both ventures, say “that’s nice for magazines, but it won’t work for us.”
To which I say, ‘Why not?”
In today’s cable news/online/Twitter/Facebook world, newspapers have become irrelevant in being the source of breaking and up-to-date news. Most stories in the morning paper are 6 to 24 hours old, which is well past its freshness date in the online world. To adapt to readers, print needs to redefine its content to what it can do best: Analysis, human interest features, trend pieces, watchdog journalism.
Sounds like a magazine, huh? Or, at least a Sunday paper?
I’ll wager that the electronic platform — if rolled out and marketed well — will be a winner with readers. We’re already seeing some interest among readers who are using Kindles-type readers. An open standard that could be shared by all — publishers and device makers — will save us from the ‘standard wars’ that have plagued other technologies, such as high-def DVDs and videocassettes.
I also expect that, when said and done, the hardware and software costs will be far less what most publishers pay for their presses and supporting facilities.
It’s a good and smart gamble that could be the bridge to the next generation of news.
It’s nice to see someone finally stepping forward to lead the pack.