While a great deal of effort has been put into supporting a supposed opposition between eReaders like the Kindle and traditional paper publications, there are some places where paper just wasn’t really cutting it even before the eReader came along. Specifically, I’m thinking about newspapers. It’s practically become a cliche to point out that most people get their news from the internet these days, when they aren’t just watching TV, because why wait until tomorrow to learn what’s happening today? Deciding what needs to be done for traditional news vendors to stay relevant will probably be difficult, but it seems inevitable that things like the Kindle will play a large part.
Now, I can’t claim that this is a new thought, exactly. The New York Times has found what appears to be one method for making the most of new technology. Kindle subscribers, as well as Nook subscribers and anybody who wants to pay to get this benefit a la carte, can not only get their regular issues delivered but access the paper’s website in its entirety without any of the annoying restrictions that the average non-subscriber has to put up with. While they have seen a decline in overall subscribers and ad revenue recently, the NYT reports a noticeable jump in Kindle subscribers. There would seem to be other options, though. There practically have to be since not every paper can leverage the kind of reputation that the NYT brings to the market.
My favorite theoretical idea, which I admittedly have no idea as to the practicality of, is inspired by the Barnes & Noble in store Nook experience. Location based subscriptions that allow access to a publication or collection of publications, especially local ones, while on the premises. It offers the same sort of benefits to the business doing the subscribing that having paper copies on hand would, which is not uncommon in coffee shops, libraries, etc, but without the bulk, waste, opportunity for damage, or potentially outdated news. Just bring your Kindle or Nook in and read your paper over a drink.
Ideas aside, since as I mentioned I can’t really judge the practicality of the many approaches that are available, one of the biggest issues will probably be a change in mindset. Newspapers are traditionally reliant on their advertising revenue. On something like a Kindle, you don’t have nearly as much space for that, even if you have an eReader-specific edition of your paper. The native web browser even offers an impressively effective Article Mode that will remove them from anything a reader happens to be looking through on a paper’s website. It isn’t like this is unique, given ad blocking extensions available for pretty much every web browser on the market. About the only place that people are forced to look at ads when they don’t want to anymore is on paper. It is a complicated problem, but the Kindle offers more potential than most options. Something like the WOWIO eBook advertisement wrapping around a daily package of news delivery might just do the trick?