By paulgillin | January 4, 2010 - 11:04 am - Posted in Business News, BusinessModel, Journalism, NewMedia

Apple tablet conceptThank goodness we have something to fill up the cold, light-deprived days of January: speculation about a new Apple tablet computer. Apple’s got a big press event scheduled for Jan. 26 and the blogosphere is overflowing with rumors that it will announce a flat-screen portable computer that’ll make the Amazon Kindle look like an Etch-a-Sketch.

Huffington Post relates rumors that Apple has registered the domain iSlate, presumably because that’s the name of the new device. However, iTablet has also been suggested. Pocketlint has a collection of 56 concept images that have been posted online, just like the one at right. Most depict the tablet as being an oversized iPhone, which we hope it isn’t. One of the most appealing factors about the iPhone is its light weight and hand-feel. There’s no more reason to believe the iPhone will scale larger  than there is to believe a Cooper Mini would make a good SUV.

The New York Times’ Alice Rawsthorn notes that while a lot of people like their e-readers, few people love them. “If a really great e-reader appeared, the market would explode,” she writes. And she adds, “If it comes through, demand for electronic books, newspapers and magazines should soar.”

That’s one reason publishing pundits are so hot on this rumored product. The iPod/iPhone has managed to crack the code of creating successful paid content models. The Kindle has legitimized that concept in the book and magazine publishing world, although Amazon’s onerous licensing terms irk publishers. If the iSlate or iTablet or whatever it’s called can create explosive demand for a universal media player, then content producers may have a chance to develop meaningful subscription models around it.

To get some ideas about where this whole trend could go, read Mark Potts’ essay. “Most of those speculating about Apple’s tablet aren’t thinking big enough….I believe the Apple tablet has the potential to strikingly transform large swaths of the media business, from newspapers to television to movies, pretty much all at once,” he writes. Potts goes on to suggest that a successful portable media device could unify the various platforms by which people now receive information into a single experience. For example, TV programs could be downloaded to the device for playback anywhere, with the video automatically switching to a high-definition TV in the home when the viewer enters the room.

And if you think about the possibilities of what some people are calling “augmented reality,” then portable TV is just a start. Information will be combined from multiple sources to create a constantly flowing river of data in different forms. Think the cacophony of a cable news channel screen, only clickable and aware of its location.

Yes, Apple has had failures in the past, but under Steve Jobs they’ve been few and far between. Our guess is that Jobs would never just spring a bigger iPhone on the market. He’s got his people thinking bigger and whatever results will certainly have the potential to be game-changing. It will certainly give us something to talk about between chattering teeth over the next few weeks.

A Giant’s Sudden Passing

We never met Deborah Howell, but anyone whose passing merits moving remembrances from the likes of Ken Doctor and Jeff Jarvis must have been someone special. Howell, 68, was the former assistant managing editor of the Minneapolis Star and executive editor of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Most recently, she was ombudsman at the Washington Post (we did note one of her Post columns almost two years ago to the day). She died last Friday after being hit by a car while crossing the street near Blenheim, New Zealand. The trip had been a lifelong dream.

Ken Doctor remembers her as an editor with “a hard edge and a soft heart.” She was prone to expletives and the occasional “because I said so,” but she also gave him advice that has served him for a lifetime: “Every once in a while, a voice will say, hold on, check it again, is that what you really want your newspaper to say?”

Jarvis remembers her as a veteran of traditional journalism who was caught up in the maelstrom over the shift to online. While a staunch defender of traditional values, he also remembers her as someone who embraced new ideas with fervor. When they recently worked together on a controversial project to take the Ann Arbor News online, “I was the one holding Deborah down as she grabbed new ideas with the fervor of a convert and fretted that we weren’t being radical enough.”

Tim McGuire has a moving tribute about his lifelong love-hate relationship with Howell. The New York Times’ David Carr shares a remembrance of how Howell once dressed him down at his own awards banquet and how he later came to love her.

Politico On a Tear

An eagle eyed editor at paidcontent.org spied an opportunity in Allbritton Communications’ recent earning announcement to get a glimpse at the financial picture of The Politico, a new-breed Capitol Hill publisher that many people think will serve as a model for future news organizations.

Reporter Rafat Ali says this is a one-time deal; Allbritton has distributed shares of The Politico to a family-owned holding company and won’t have to break out the financials again in the future. The 2009 numbers show dramatic growth over the last three years, with The Politico likely to easily top $20 million this year. Revenues are on a $6 million quarterly run rate and the operation broke into the black in 2009. Much of the revenue comes from the print issue distributed on weekdays, demonstrating that there is life for news on paper if it hits the right audience with information they can’t get elsewhere.

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This entry was posted on Monday, January 4th, 2010 at 11:04 am and is filed under Business News, BusinessModel, Journalism, NewMedia. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

4 Comments

  1. January 5, 2010 @ 4:50 pm



    […] tablet, the iSlate (or iTablet, or whatever the hell Steve Jobs wants to call the thing.)  Newspaper Death Watch has a nice starting point and roundup of some of the action surrounding Apple&…  More than one person seems to believe that the new tablet might be a game-changing event for not […]

  2. January 5, 2010 @ 9:08 pm



    Can you say “iSlate Axe wielding Steve Jobs decimates whatever’s left of the newspaper business. The future is happening right n0w.

    Printing press stocks plummet. (Hope you were shorting yours.)

    Media pundits ponder what’s left as media landscape goes all digital (as does content.)

    Marshall McLuhan was right in more ways that he could have imagned.

    The medium is the message in more ways than one.

    The tracking of copyrights and collaborations across visual, audio, textual genres will become an absolutely vital part of the new flat media landscape.

    Proper attribution will become something unavoidable.

    The ownership of ideas will have to become something that exists only in the commons without proper research.

    Small minds will no longer be able to claim that “No, we do not stand on the shoulders of giants.”

    Posted by msbpodcast
  3. January 5, 2010 @ 9:55 pm



    The game changing that’s going to happen is one that has nothing to do with the hardware but with the content providers/media corporations who will find that Apple offers a way for them to change their own game by forging alliances and deals not with each other, they’ve been in competition for far too long for them to ever try that, but with Apple.

    Don’t forget Apple’s been forging exactly these same kinds of alliances with the handful of major record companies and with the indies as well. They have practice at it with people who were against every single form of innovation ever made since the creation of the player piano.

    If Apple can do that, print and visual media should be a snap.

    What can Apple offer?

    The realization that medium* is all about content, regardless of its origin.

    It is fitting that the Google One Phone is out today as they are the major indexer of content.

    Apple is a hardware company that makes beautiful things for people to use to look at and/or listen to what other other people do.

    Google is an advertising company that makes is simple to search for what other other people do.

    Its a question of which form factor fits under which set of physical circumstances.

    The software for presenting this is now a well known quantity with Google search and iPod Cover Flow.

    Neither of these companies could exist independent of each other but together they can thrive off of a symbiosis mediated through the internet.

    The power of both lies in their ability to exploit the relationships between the internet objects. IPv6 will be a boon to both.

    *See above comment about the digital flattening of content. After all when you can record a podcast or a vodcast on a cell phone, write your show notes and distribute it all digitally for virtually nothing, the flavor of the game is in the knowing.

    Posted by msbpodcast
  4. January 6, 2010 @ 11:29 am



    Apple came after the MP3.

    The shift from the corporate evolved bundling of the music as the album had already occurred.

    It was the inevitable rebellion against B Side music which had got spread over 12″ of vinyl. (Sometimes the B-Sides were actually better than what the band put on the A-Side of their 45 RPM recordings. I give as proof the “Manfred Man” song “There is a Man which was on the B-Side of My Name is Jack which was recorded in 1968.)

    People got tired of paying for a dozen or so songs when most of the music was crap that the A&R people forced the artist to produce in order to fill out the remainder of an album. (Not everybody had the guts to do what Johnny Winter did and stop>/b> after three sides’ worth of music because he felt that he’d done everything he wanted to do and he was going to shut up. [ Its like the music of Savage Garden which became a hit as a collaboration between themselves and their music video maker for the song “I Want You. {More tragically the same collaboration between “Blind Melon on “No Rain led the lead singer to commit suicide when the video of the song was immensely more popular than the band. (The little girl in the bee costume was really cute. The lead singer, not so much.)}])

    MP3s gave the consumer the ability to cut the crap out of their listening.

    Once they had it, consumers weren’t giving it back.

    They bought, and they didn’t mind paying for, billions of individual songs, unbundled from the corporate arbiters of taste since those arbiters either didn’t listen to their product or, more likely, didn’t care about the music.

    Its was all about the medium, and the legal structures they erected around it, since the introduction of the LP.

    Those same corporate arbiters never realized that, while their lawyers had no taste in music, their customers did.

    Its the same thing with news organizations.

    The content they aggregate is all slanted in one direction or another and tends to be of very poor quality. (Ever notice that when you read a newspaper or magazine article or watch a TV news feature on something you know something about, they never get the story right, [we know and they don’t, so they don’t,] but we fool ourselves into believing the rest of the news.)

    Think of the disintegration of the newspaper, and the coming rise of the citizen journalism, as the triumph of content over form, as opposed to how its been run up ’till now.

    The old editorial budget, juggling column-inches of content versus advertising, cutting content down when it looked like yu were going to run over budget, and trying to come up with a mix of features which were supposed to appeal to everyone but actually appealed to none, most of the news paper being discarded without being read.

    But they had evolved the layout formula over the century and a half they had been printing newspapers, and it seemed to not offend to many people, so that’s what got printed.

    Well, we’re no longer stuck with the limitations of paper.

    Posted by msbpodcast