Scott Rosenberg, co-found of Salon, thinks that Murdoch’s tablet newspaper won’t be able to succeed. Or at least he’s more skeptical than I am. Interestingly enough, Rosenberg isn’t skeptical about the $50-per-year subscription, but rather how old school the new paper actually is.
Why do people love getting their news online? It’s timely, it’s convenient, it’s fast — all that matters. Murdoch’s tablet could match that (though it sounds like it may drop the ball on “timely” and “fast”). But even more important than that, online news is connected: it’s news that you can respond to, link to, share with friends. It is part of a back-and-forth that you are also a part of.
Murdoch’s tablet thingie will be something else — a throwback to the isolation of pre-Web publications. Like a paywalled website, this tablet “paper” will discourage us from talking about its contents because we can’t link to it. In other words, like a paywalled site, it expects us to pay for something that is actually less useful and valuable than the free competition.
It’s possible, of course, that the creators of Murdoch’s tablet publication will try to turn it into a true interactive project — where interactive doesn’t mean “buttons you can click on” but rather “people you can interact with.” If they’re smart, they’ll try to build a community within their walls. But that’s a very difficult goal to achieve even if you embrace it wholeheartedly. At big media companies like News Corp., this idea is more often an afterthought than a priority.
Much more likely, the Murdoch project will make the same mistake so many big-media-backed digital ventures have made before. It will assume that its content is so unique, its personality so compelling, its information so rich that readers will regard it as essential. Yet even if it is a really good digital periodical — and it might be! — it is hard to imagine what News Corp. can do to make it that essential, in a world awash in news and information.
Actually, he’s got a point.