[Commentary] Richard Branson and Rupert Murdoch are entrepreneurs with an admirable record of ignoring conventional wisdom, so it is worth watching when they do the same thing at once. The are launching iPad-only publications.
This fits into a bigger debate about whether companies are balkanizing the web to gain economic leverage. Yet, even leaving business models aside, it is hard to blame them. The truth is that, two decades after Sir Tim Berners-Lee pioneered it, the Internet has proven a poor medium for publishers who originate a lot of news and information. It has gone further than levelling the playing field between old-style publishers and start-ups – it has given the advantage to low-cost information providers. It goes without saying that the Internet has great benefits in terms of the amount of information that can now be accessed directly, rather than being mediated by a newspaper or television news show. The idea that anyone could (if he or she chose) read the 250,000 US diplomatic cables soon to be made available by WikiLeaks would have been inconceivable two decades ago.
But there is no such thing as a neutral medium. Just as newspapers, radio and television offered different methods of presenting news and information, with varying degrees of depth, the Internet favours some forms of content over others. People tend to skim the home pages of sites rather than delving deeply because browsers work that way. On a tablet, an edited, in-depth publication has a better chance of competing with the atomized, open-source information flow of the open web. That is what Sir Richard and Mr Murdoch have bet on – that a tablet restores the advantage of depth over breadth. That may not be enough – many people are happy to live in the world of free, distributed information and will prefer it. “If you think that the day of the editor deciding what you read today is dead then these apps will fall apart,” says Benedict Evans, of Enders Analysis. My bet is that the two will co-exist, just as new forms of media have always done with existing ones in the past.
- Murdoch: Obama Must Be Careful Not To Overregulate
- Bloggers React to a Religion Quiz
- The changing media landscape
- iPad users don’t mind paying for news
- The Digital Democracyâ€™s Emerging Elites
- Medicare costs: Are electronic records the solution—or the problem?
- Murdoch has to become an elitist
- Innovation: It Isn't a Matter of Left or Right
- Murdoch the magician is running out of tricks
- Murdoch Aides Long Tried to Blunt Scandal Over Hacking
- A Scuffle Over Pay Television in Britain Spills Into the Living Room
- What politicians lost to Murdoch
- News Corp. plans national newspaper for tablet computers and cellphones
- Broadcasting & Cable Magazine, Multichannel News, TWICE sold to NewBay Media
- 2012 Mirror Awards Finalists