Newspapers still not on the Kindle bandwagon
For as much as most people who handle the Kindle immediately understand its virtues, there remains a strong contingent of naysayers who find problems with the device for one reason or another. One of the most ardent critics of late has been Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who had some strong words about the Kindle on Wednesday.
Speaking to shareholders on a News Corp earnings call, Murdoch was quoted as saying, “The Kindle is a fantastic invention for books, but it’s not much of an experience for newspapers.” He went on to explain how News Corp had to negotiate to get Amazon to lift the price of the Kindle version of the Wall Street Journal to $15, with his company’s take a paltry $6.50 — clearly not enough for the billionaire.
He expressed optimism about the expansion of the e-Reader market to as many as a half-dozen entrants, as he seems to think that the increased competition will be good for a newspaper like the WSJ, since they’ll be able to negotiate better rates. Says ol’ Murdoch, “We want to get our fair share of revenue.”
And yet, in the very same conference call where he bitterly railed against Amazon for, in effect, stealing his company’s lunch money, News Corp’s newspaper arm reported a decrease in operating income to the tune of $109 million over the last year. The newspaper business as it was once known is clearly failing. Like the music business before them, they’re either going to have to learn to adapt, or die off.When the one promising development you can report in the e-Reader sphere is that you managed to force through a price increase, you know you’re a little out of touch with your readers. Don’t believe me? Look at the reviews on Amazon. The Wall Street Journal’s average customer review is sitting at a leaden 2/5 stars, and rightly so. When the print version of the newspaper, which includes access to WSJ.com, sells for $120/year, trying to get people to pay $180/year for the same newspaper on their Kindles with less features and no pictures is something of a tough sell.
Don’t get me wrong though, I think newspapers are probably one of the strongest proofs of concept for the Kindle. Anybody who has ever tried to read a newspaper on a crowded commuter train can attest to the relative comfort of getting one’s news on the eminently compact Kindle. And while reading the news on a laptop is functional enough, it pales in comparison to the portability and readability of a dedicated e-Reader.
So whoever is at fault for overpriced newspaper subscriptions, it needs to stop. I can’t claim to have all the answers, but as a consumer of digital content myself, I can say with some confidence that raising prices and publicly blowing off whole platforms is not it.