This afternoon we get two bleak portrayals of how old-media is doing in this "new media" world. The Internet, which at first scared purveyors of old fashioned journalism, looked like its savior for a brief moment, sometime around the same time Steve Jobs released the iPad. But, it now looks scary again. At least for the most traditional media companies, which have failed to adapt in ways that draw audiences or save their bottom lines.
Our first sob story comes from Technology Review's Jason Pontin, who describes the big app myth. Apps, seen as an easy way to engage digital readers turned into a money-suck for Pontin and many others. "Like almost all publishers, I was badly disappointed. What went wrong? Everything," he writes. In short, here's "what went wrong."
- Apple demanded a 30 percent cut of all sales. "Profit margins in single-copy sales are thinner than 30 percent; publishers were thus paying Apple to move issues," he writes.
- Adaptation of print issues to digital was harder than expected. "A large part of the problem was the ratio of the tablets: they possessed both a "portrait" (vertical) and "landscape" (horizontal) view, depending on how the user held the device," he continues. And the different screen sizes presented problems, too, leading publishers to produce multiple versions of one issue.
- The biggest problem: apps work too much like PDFs, and not enough like living Webpages. "The apps were, in the jargon of information technology, "walled gardens," and although sometimes beautiful, they were small, stifling gardens," continues Pontin.
- And, the way sales worked in the digital world, publishers couldn't make up for all these additional costs. "Without subscribers or many single-copy buyers, and with no audiences to sell to advertisers, there were no revenues to offset the incremental costs of app development," he writes.