Posted on September 21, 2007
Looking ahead to the ‘iPod moment’ for newspapers
What the iPod has done to the music business, another device will do to the newspaper business, writes Charles Arthur, a technology editor at The Guardian. This is not a new notion, but Arthur’s post is particularly well written and thought provoking. More important, Arthur writes about the idea of change — not merely about a gadget.
Logically, there’s a device coming our way which will be able to hold and “play back” (visually of course) huge amounts of text while being portable and convenient. That already exists in the form of paper, but it’s hard to search through paper or create “playlists” of favourite writers from across multiple papers.
I know my iPod changed almost everything about the way I listen to and buy recorded music — and it also added podcasts into the mix, which we never had before. Just about the only thing it hasn’t changed is my habit of listening to NPR’s Morning Edition via broadcast radio each day. I can’t bear to listen to any other radio (not even satellite). I have become addicted to the Skip button. (TiVo has done the same to my television viewing habits.)
Arthur discusses what will happen to people’s habits for using news and the other contents of the newspaper:
… as the music industry has seen the destruction of the album, partly through the (lack of) efforts by artists who haven’t come up with more than two tracks worth listening to, and those each 3 minutes long (excluding remixes). Now, people just go for tracks. I think that in the same way, newspapers will find themselves driven down towards “the article” — as happens already online, and was happening already. … The effect on journalists will be radical.
This is going to encompass video as well as written news reports; it will encompass breaking news as well as features and commentary. It will affect ALL journalistic content.
”The music business, as a whole, has lost its faith in content,” David Geffen, the legendary music mogul, [said] recently. ”Only 10 years ago, companies wanted to make records, presumably good records, and see if they sold. But panic has set in, and now it’s no longer about making music, it’s all about how to sell music. And there’s no clear answer about how to fix that problem. But I still believe that the top priority at any record company has to be coming up with great music.” ( “The Music Man,” by Lynn Hirschberg, The New York Times, Sept. 2, 2007)
What happened to the music business will — will — happen to the news business.
It’s already happening. But the device (whatever it’s going to be) will accelerate the process so much, it might just knock us flat to the ground. This is the future we are preparing for now. This is the future we must be ready to meet — or else, what happens to journalism?
Like Geffen, I firmly believe the fundamental answer is “coming up with great music.”
It will also be necessary to tag the content (as songs are tagged by genre); to time-stamp it scrupulously; to link reporters and organizations reliably; to build in hooks and connections to past reports and future updates.
Think of playlists, think of search, and think of sync’ing the iPod.
Is your content ready for the iPod moment?