Here’s the news peg: The Boston Globe this morning announced something that sounds much more interesting than it actually is. Their new ePaper sounds like the best of both worlds, seeing the print version the same way on your iPad as in your hands as a newspaper.
To be fair, if I were still working for a newspaper, I’d love this announcement. The time and energy and sweat I’ve spent laying out pages, only to have Quark XPress self-destruct before you’ve hit save, is essentially vindicated now that my blood and tears are now available for the anti-print crowd to see on their techie devices. And I understand there is a market for such things as the ePaper, especially at publications that treat their website and Internet presence as an afterthought.
But here’s the thing: ePaper is about as interesting in practice as Lincoln Logs are for a kid who’s grown up with an Xbox. A newspaper is fine when you don’t have an iPad and you don’t want to stare in front of your computer all day, or when you’re sitting on the T and don’t have service on your smartphone. Other than reading the text out for you, how is ePaper going to make reading a newspaper easier?
I’ve seen a few newspapers use services similar to ePaper and I think the Globe is making a lot of noise over something that was old news before noon today. What large papers like the Globe should do is spend more attention to the rest of their website.
Gigaom had an article yesterday generally criticizing the paywall model long championed by The Wall Street Journal and New York Times. Instead, they said, the Guardian’s “reverse paywall” method of offering better content to subscribers who pony up the money for online content. The article is a good read, but here’s the takeaway: Big newspapers look like they’re building up paywalls out of desperation. They’re throwing old ideas back into the mix at a time when media has really made some significant steps in different directions.
And it begs the question: Why are we going to spend money on something that isn’t new?