Don’t get me wrong. I’m delighted that Amazon has come out with a new, bigger Kindle that might make for a better reading experience.
But most reports on the new device follow the same path, quoting Sarah Rotman Epps, a media analyst at Forrester Research, saying: "Newspapers are reaching the end of their rope. The e-readers are looking like newspapers' last best hope."
They may be a boon to publications like The New York Times or Washington Post, making it easy for a huge audience to have a positive reading experience with a national title. But when we talk about saving newspapers, aren’t we talking about most of the 1,400 or so other publications?
Let’s say the e-readers really do take off. Why will readers in Denver want to follow The Denver Post’s world or national report, or recipes and MLB roundup for that matter, if they can get a better version from one of the national publications? People might want to pay for the Post’s coverage of Denver and Colorado and its sports teams and people. But will they really want the version of the paper they’re getting today? I don’t think so.
Perhaps the new Kindle will speed up cooperation among newspapers, where instead of ordering a complete publication readers will be able to order sections from different publications. In an era of choice, why wouldn’t readers – whatever newspapers think of it – ask for a more a la carte approach to buying content? I would want The Denver Post’s sports section and its local news/business/commentary section. But forget its A section, which like the A sections of most metro papers is a wire service rehash of what happened yesterday. And while I may want its entertainment section on Friday, is its fitness section really better than something I could order from a magazine on my Kindle? (By the way, I used the Post as my example because that’s the local paper I receive. Not to pick on it. I could use any local paper as the example.)
If the Kindle takes off, it still seems to me that local news organizations are going to have to focus on what they can do best – local reporting.
My reflection on the Kindle’s potential to help the newspaper industry doesn’t even take into account a larger issue: Users are going to want a reader that can launch multimedia from a “newspaper” page, both for stories and for advertising, something that provide a “rich” experience.
Still, a local newspaper getting a share of what people in Denver pay to subscribe to The New York Times or some association of titles is better than the paper getting nothing, which is the case on the Web.