Since Gutenberg, the paper industry hasn’t been so disturbed. In April 2010, Apple launched a new product called iPad. They presented their tablet like a new electronic product which will change our daily life.
The iPad is midway between the phone and the traditional notebook and its price starts at $ 499. Like the iPhone or the iTouch, the iPad is multi-touch. This means that you touch the screen in order to do actions. Without a keyboard the iPad isn’t a real production tool.
This tablet is primarily oriented on consumption of books, magazines, digital newspapers, movies and Internet with the 3G access. You can also download applications on the Apple Store. With this new product category, some media society saw an opportunity (or an obligation) to focus their attention on digital content.
But how such an object can pretend to change the newspaper industry?
Indeed, there are many questions. Let’s take a deeper look at the advantages of the iPad:
- Memory: Compared to a standard book which takes almost the same space, the iPad 2 has got 16, 32 or 64 GB of storage. With 16 GB you can store more than 10’000 digitals books. This means that you can have the library of your town just in your bag.
- Media convergence: With the iPad all types of media are used. We can have text and photos like on a traditional newspaper but we can also have songs and videos. With the Internet access you can use the hypertext links to deepen your knowledge.
- Interactivity: The iPad also provides the ability to interact with the content: Scrolling through images, zooming into a photo, playing or stopping a video, commenting an article, moving into a 3D photo, looking for a place on a map, etc.
- Price: Finally a digital book is necessarily cheaper than a book. In the digital word, there is no distribution, no needs of paper and so no impression costs. The removal of theses intermediates allows media companies to revise their prices downward.
We could also name other advantages like the luminosity, which helps you to read in the dark or the possibility to zoom into the text.
Rupert Murdoch, the founder of News Corporation, launched the first daily newspapers of the world on the iPad simply called The Daily on the 2. February 2011. Rates are proposed at 14 cents per day, 99 cents per week and also 40 $ for per year. The creation of this newspaper costs nearly $ 30 million. Since its launch the newspapers application has been downloaded 800,000 times. If this is a correct figure, it seems that few readers have become subscribers after the free trial period. The Daily would need about 600,000 subscribers to become truly profitable. In this case, the 30% of commissions that are paid back to Apple is also counted. Currently, official figures have not been released but there are about 120,000 daily readers of the newspaper.
The newspaper, however, faces major obstacles. Indeed, today only a little part of the population has an iPad. The sales of the iPad 2 are relatively good, with 15 million sells, but it will takes more time to reach every family. This means that the market is currently booming but is relatively small for a newspaper’s ambition.
In addition, as mentioned earlier, Apple takes 30% of the selling price of applications sold on the Apple Store. This constraint is relatively difficult to maintain for most companies wishing to sell their application to an extreme low price.
Currently, 83% of tablets sold are iPads. However on Android, the operating system from Google, applications are much free because they are not charged with 30 % by Google. The Daily announced to open his digital newspaper on Android tablets soon.
Are people really ready to read newspapers on a tablet?
On this graph from observatoire-bd-numerique.com, only 25.8% of the websites users say they use the iPad for reading. The major part, 46.2 % uses it rather for Internet and e-mails. This means that reading books or newspapers on screen haven’t become an habit yet.
Most of the people are still very attached to the paper. Actually, we don’t know if people really want all of these technologies. Some people just want to read something which is easy and don’t care about interactivity. On this video we can also see all the advantages of a book.
People also argue that the screen tires the eyes seriously. This problem could be solved in the future. Companies are working on new type of screen which is called “amoled”. These screens are foldable and extremely thin (about 1mm). These screens would be also less aggressive for our eyes.
In conclusion, it is relatively too early to say if the iPad is able to change definitely the newspapers industry. Furthermore, I think that people’s mentality has to get used to digital content. I used the iPad during one day and I am still skeptical about it because I feel more comfortable with a real newspaper. However, the tablet is still likely to evolve and it would be possible to imagine that the arrival of new AMOLED screens will even more upset the newspapers industry and truly give a boost to the tablets.