Murdoch set to launch a tablet-only newspaper

When NewsCorp announced that they were taking online version of The Times behind a subscription-only firewall, I was -like many – quite sneering and derogatory about the idea: a paysite for news content just seemed like such a ridiculous idea when the web is a boiling pot of free and diverse news and opinion.

But there was something about the idea which seemed quite intriguing. Aside from the ballsiness of it: whether the project fails or succeeds, it will prove to be an informative case study in present day, mainstream news consumption. And I also had an inkling that the wily Murdoch was up to something else: using The Times as a test bed for something more ambitious; something even ballsier.

And it appears my inklings were spot on. Edward Helmore at The Guardian has reported:

Rupert Murdoch, head of the media giant News Corp, and Steve Jobs, the chief executive of Apple, are preparing to unveil a new digital “newspaper” called the Daily at the end of this month, according to reports in the US media.

The collaboration, which has been secretly under development in New York for several months, promises to be the world’s first “newspaper” designed exclusively for new tablet-style computers such as Apple’siPad, with a launch planned for early next year.

Intended to combine “a tabloid sensibility with a broadsheet intelligence”, the publication represents Murdoch’s determination to push the newspaper business beyond the realm of print.

This is big news. Really big news. Not only because Apple appear to be on board as advocates of the pilot of this kind of distribution, but because the newspaper print industry is in freefall, and is desperate to find a new, proven model for distribution which eradicates the need for lumbering, restrictive print plants. But they can’t make that jump until they can be sure that advertisers and their revenue will follow suit. The tide is ready for turning though, as Horace Dediu notes in this really insightful piece at Asymco:

But if you keep following the money from the revenue side, you realize that the situation is critical. In the US, a large part of the local paper’s revenue base was wiped out by Craig’s list. Classifieds are a fading memory. With respect to regular ads, the story is almost as bad. 26% of ad spend in 2009 was allocated to print, while only 12% of time spent consuming media was spent on it. In contrast, Internet use is at 28% of time where only 13% of ad dollars are allocated.

So, if NewsCorp jumps, and they prove successful in this new, evolving model, then surely the rest of the newspaper industry will – out of necessity and pure survival instinct – have to make the leap in our to remain viable. It’s going to be an interesting one to watch, both economically and technically. And I can’t help wondering how much Steve Jobs might be conspiring to add to Apple’s profit margins through this deal.

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