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April 2010
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June 2010

Nine easy steps to get the newspaper in PDF

I must admit I find PDF a pretty cumbersome format, so when Paal Hivand tweeted a link to this special offer from a regional Norwegian newspaper I couldn't help but laugh: a nine (!) step guide to get the PDF version of the paper. It's a available for free for a three week trial, downloadable for roughly £2 a day or you can take out a paid subscription (it doesn't say for how much).

Now, as the newspaper serves Finnmark, Norway's sparsly populated northernmost county, there might be a business rationale to offering a PDF-paper like this, but, me, I'd happily settle for reading the newspaper online.


iPad Conference in Oxford

A shot from last week's iPad Conference, INMAs Tablet Summit 2010, in Oxford.

It's amazing how (media) people gather around this device: I've even experieced one or two pub sessions recently were the iPad has taken centre stage (both as an actual object everyone is keen to explore, and as a topic of discussion).

Other than the bits I blogged, Carlos Campos, director of Innovation Media Consulting in Spain, provided a timely sound bite during his talk, which sums up much of the discussion and thinking about this device - both at the Summit and in general:

"We are all [the media industry] getting a second chance to get this right, but that is perhaps our last chance. If we don't have a revenue model for the iPad - not a business model, but a revenue model - we have no chance: No pay, no Pad."

A new, revolutionary idea for our industry

It’s simple, logical, some would say plain obvious. Then why is it so hard to implement in reality?

While listening to an inspiring talk by Juan Señor at the Oxford Tablet Summit Tuesday, I was struck by what he said on how we need to move from Facebook journalism to face to face journalism. Now I don’t think those are mutually exclusive categories. I think Facebook journalism can be a great addition to face to face journalism, but I think it’s a sad testament to our industry when we need to be reminded of the value in talking to sources face to face.

Thing is, if you’re an online journalist it is often very hard, sometimes impossible, to find time to talk to sources face to face, or go out looking for new sources in real life, during your work day. The day-to-day production pressure is simply too high, and newsrooms are often staffed in such a way that it seriously impacts the volume of output if just one person were to use the day to go see people face to face.

The best journalists I know solve this problem by meeting up with sources after work. That journalism requires this kind of commitment from its practitioners is certainly nothing new, but this desk-bound day-to-day grind with emphasise on volume rather than quality does of course impact the value of the output.

It’s also paradoxical that so many online journalists lead such a desk-bound existence when considering how easy new technology has made it to work from wherever you happen to be. I recently organised an event for Norwegian Online News Association (NONA) where three online journalists talked about how to work effectively in the field with as light-weight equipment as possible.

They all felt a laptop, an iPhone and a camera like Canon50D was sufficient to report effectively from the field, be it a technology conference or a war zone - though one added that a bullet proof west was also useful for the latter situation and another said that Jaffa tape had turned out invaluable when setting up equipment for live coverage from a trial in Congo.

In either case: we have all the technology we need to be on the move constantly and file stories from anywhere we happen to be, and yet most news sites only occasionally allow their reporters to do this because in most cases it still affects the volume of output negatively even if it does improve the quality of the output. Is it any wonder our industry is in such a mess?

Explained: iPad’s role in the media ecosystem

The iPad is a premium product for premium content. It’s a lean-back device most used in the evenings, and it provides a new chance for photo- and long-form journalism.

Since its launch earlier this year, the media industry has been abuzz with talk on how the iPad will change the industry. As a media journalist I’ve already attended quite a few talks, and read an extraordinary amount of articles, on the subject, but INMAs Tablet summit in Oxford this week gave me new insights into what kind of role the iPad might come to play in the media ecosystem.

Convenience or uniqueness?

That is not to say that there is a consensus about this role. For instance, The Guardian’s Jonathan Moore said his newspaper saw the iPad more as a convenience device, its iPad app offering pretty much the same content as you find on The Guardian’s news site, while the majority of the presenters saw it as the perfect device for offering unique content people were willing to pay for.

"This has to be a premium content. If you approach it as something free: let’s just turn off the light and go home. It has to be premium, paid for, from day one," said Juan Señor, Innovation in Newspapers' UK director. He asserted that we can’t talk about tablets without talking about the rest of our platforms, pointing out that you have to have different content for different platforms.

A new chance for photo- and long-form journalism

"Tablet and paper will be premium, provide background etc, while we have to see online and mobile as mass media. You will have to charge perhaps five times more for print paper and for tablets," he said, highlighting some of the newspapers Innovation in Newspapers has remade, especially the successful Portuguese daily news magazine I, as perfect journalism to be transformed to the iPad.

Media consultant and commentator Frédéric Filloux said the iPad offers a new chance for long-form journalism. In his view, it provides three major rehabilitations: 1) Re-bundling the news. Tablets and mobile can re-bundle content, 2) Visual 3) Length.

The lean-back device

"The iPad is the lean-back device: it’s a consumption device rather than a production device – it has nothing in common with a lean-forward device such as the PC," he said. Read more of his thoughts on this here. Interestingly, Jon Einar Sandvand, digital strategist at Aftenposten, Norway’s newspaper of record, said iPad readership figures suggested it was most used in the evening, between six and ten.

"Research suggests iPad will become the leading platform in terms of how much people spend consuming media on it. It is a media consumption device. If you are a mono-media operation producing second-hand stories you won’t win from iPad: garbage in, garbage out," said Juan Antonio Giner, president and founder of Innovation in Newspapers.

Now, let me confess that I often find big media conferences tend to focus too much on ideology than on how people actually are approaching a certain issue or innovation, but the Tablet Summit offered some excellent brain food in that it provided lots of insight into how different news organisations were approaching the iPad.

Among those, the most useful was the very hands-on presentation by Saulo Ribas, creative director at Brazilian Editora Globo’s "Epoca Magazine".

Useful iPad tips for publishers

His newspaper wanted to be the first in the country with an iPad app, so they built a light version first, and will launch the full version in July. He offered five useful tips for newspaper wanting to develop iPad apps:

    1.It’s an app, not a magazine or something like that. We have to make the best use of the interface Apple has provided.
    - Good apps are non-linear. You can access content from everywhere in the app.
    - Good apps don’t require users to learn how to use it, or at least not so much. If you need instructions on how to use the app it usually means it’s poorly designed.
    - Good apps have very simple information architecture. Simplify and eliminate the unnecessary.
    - Good apps allow the users to leave and then come back to where he left. Try to produce the best reading experience possible.
    2. Think about templates not pages. What is the role reserved for the editorial designer in the age of the tablets? If it looks awesome in the iPad it will look awesome in any other tablet.
    3. Personalise: the reader is really in control. Allow the reader to define the settings of the app, the more the better. It's a big change for us because we’re very attached to our typography in our mags and papers. We have a search view. Can’t be static, people are used to search. We’ve tried to put the basic controls at the bottom of the page.
    4. Technology is content. Have programmers be part of the newsroom
    5. Choose the right flow of information inside the iPad app

Who controls the data?

Many industry experts have looked to the iPad as a potential saviour for the media industry. In essence, the sound bite I took away from the Tablet Summit which best answers this proposition was that yes, "there is a future life for the news industry if we reinvent, not if we just repurpose". We also have to keep an eye on who controls the data.

"I do believe Apple wants to become the world’s kiosk. We could end up like the music industry; we do need to be aware of what’s happening. They control pricing and they control customer data – and if you loose those, you loose out," said Senõr. That Apple also controls the customer data was new to me, but it was also mentioned by one of the other presenters. If that is the case, it sounds very worrying indeed.

Now, these are the ideas that still stand out for me, looking back at the conference. While I made extensive notes during the Summit, Marek Miller was doing such an excellent job of live blogging it that I thought I’d afford myself the luxury of taking some time to reflect a bit on the event before I started writing about it. I will return to a few other thoughts I took away from the event a bit later, but, if you want to read more about the individual presentations, do check Mareks excellent live blog from the event here.