No gadget savior

My Guardian column this week reports on my weeks’ experiment of reading The New York Times and Wall Street Journal only on my Kindle. I’m still reading The Times that way, though I think I prefer the iPhone for that and will likely switch. When the Journal raised its price from $9.99 to $14.99, I canceled. Snippet:

…The reader works wonderfully for books. But it also tries to turn a newspaper into a book, starting us on the first page of the first story and nudging us through its awkward user interface to proceed a page-turn at a time through the entire product, as we used to on paper. The digital among us, however, no longer read news in this way. Online, we search and link and flit and explore. We are in control of the experience, not some editor somewhere.

Online, news has been freed from its packaging. Indeed, that is a key architectural underpinning of the web itself: content is separated from presentation. The same text and media can be fed into a web page, or into an iPhone app or an RSS feed. Substance parts company with style. . . .

We care less about the form of news and more about the information it imparts. That is the key strategic problem for editors and publishers hoping to charge us online: once news is known, it is knowledge that can be spread through conversation, which means it can no longer be controlled behind a pay wall. News is spread in the speed of a tweet. The half-life of a scoop’s value is lessened but the value of links grows. . . .

But in news, neither the device nor the form matters nearly as much as the information and its timing. This requires that publishers unleash their news on every device possible. But no single gadget will be their saviour. None will bring back the good old days – if they were that – of news and the world delivered in neat little packages we paid for.

  • Comparing prices of alternate versions of the New York Times can be very confusing…
    *NYT on the Kindle costs $13.99/month
    *On the iPhone/iTouch it is free (but on the iTouch, at least, the app is seriously buggy, crashes frequently, etc.).
    * The online Times Reader is $3.45/week (or free to paper subscribers)
    * Regular home delivery for the paper NYT in the New York area is now $11.70/week for non-promotional customers.
    This has only been a sampling of the available prices…

    So, if you’re going to pay for the New York Times, the cheapest (non-free) version seems to be on the Kindle. I find it intriguing that if you *do* buy the essentially “single-user” Kindle version to replace an existing regular home delivery subscription, you’ll end up saving enough money to pay for a new 6″ Kindle in about 10 months or a new 9.7″ Kindle in about 13 months…

    bob wyman

  • They truly need to reel in all of the differences in pricing. Do they know the value of their content or not? I’ve commented on this a bit, too at

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  • B. Nelson

    Off topic… but seems indicative of the changes we see:

    Beginning with the opening bell on Monday, June 8,
    the Dow Jones Industrial Average will have …
    Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO) instead of General Motors Corp.

    info brought to you by WSJ (links are good! heh heh)
    “Here’s Why We Changed The Dow”

    “The selection of Dow components is ultimately the responsibility of the managing editor of The Wall Street Journal. Robert Thomson is in that position today (as well as being editor-in-chief of all of Dow Jones),”

  • Rick

    “The same text and media can be fed into a web page, or into an iPhone app or an RSS feed. Substance parts company with style. . . .”

    Hence my great appreciation that the RSS feed for this blog contains all the content and not just an excerpt, freeing me to read it in Google Reader and saving me the byte count of displaying the ads. Cell connections limit total bytes per month so I have to watch what I connect to.

  • Aggregated content in newspapers and webpages is rarely absorbed by the reader in a linear fashion. If you’re used to having the flexibility to seamlessly switch paths and that freedom is taken from you, it’s quite likely you’ll reject this presentation of content.

    I’ve never even used a Kindle, but it sounds like they would benefit by reorganizing how they let the reader navigate newspapers and magazines, which are not read linearly like books, on their device. Too bad they didn’t get it right on the first try, but with all of this feedback they can the second time.

    I’m reading WWGD right now. Thank you for enlightening us. I wrote my first post on my favorite quote so far yesterday if you want to check it out: