IPad to Save the Industry? Please . . .

Wednesday, 07 Apr 2010 07:46 AM

By Jon Friedman

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Apple's iPad: more hype than hope.

I know, I know: The Apple iPad is their new "new thing." It can cure the common cold, mow your lawn and walk your dog — all before breakfast, too. But one more thing about Steve Jobs' new baby: It won't save the mainstream media.

If you believe all of the speculation, the iPad (and the Tablet) will salvage the newspaper and magazine industries. I'm not buying the argument, though.

Maybe I'm an incorrigible 20th century man, deep down. My problem in this case is that the challenge for the media is to fix the busted business model, which leans heavily on advertising revenue.

The economy has been in retreat for a while during this new century and the media companies are feeling the pinch. How can an Apple iPad be the savior to this difficulty? It can't.

The iPad will boost Apple's fortunes but it won't make young readers excited about the content that they've been rejecting for years in newsprint and on magazine pages. This is the other big problem with the media — we've been cranking out copy that young readers tend to regard as irrelevant. But the iPad has one undeniable quality going for it: The damn thing sure seems cool.

Can anyone call any newspaper or magazine cool?

God knows, the sad answer is no way. Media companies have to find a way to include the cool factor. It hinges on the idea of persuading the readers to buy into an idea that you know something that they wish they knew and can't wait to discover.

This is Steve Jobs' unique brilliance. He has a manner of convincing us that we must buy a gadget or a toy that a) we really can't afford and b) really don't need, for that matter.

On the other hand, newspapers and magazines do have content that people need and can afford. Yet, the media are uncool. And Apple is the paragon of cool. Can you explain that?

Steve Jobs understands it. Then again, he's pretty darned cool, you know.

Jon Friedman writes the Media Web column for MarketWatch.com. Click here to see his latest column.

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