As Print Dwindles, can Amazon Re-Kindle?

Amazon-KindleLast week it was Apple’s iPhone, this week it is Amazon’s Kindle. Different mobile device, same question. 

As The Independent puts it hopefully in today’s business section: “Kindle to save papers?”

You see, Amazon’s e-reader is coming to the UK. Company founder Jeff Bezos posted the much-anticipated announcement on his site earlier this week.

And he made a compelling sales pitch for the £175 device:

Kindle uses the same 3G wireless technology as advanced mobile phones, with coverage in over 100 countries worldwide, so you never need to hunt for a WiFi hotspot. Unlike mobile phones, there are no monthly data charges and no yearly contracts.

So far, so portable. But will it work as a news-reader, not just a book-reader?

There are some who think the answer is absolutely yes.

US media analyst Diane Mermigas is one. Writing on the Bnet blog yesterday, she offered five reasons why newspapers must embrace e-readers.

Among her arguments, Mermigas says Kindle and co. provide the perfect vehicle for micro-payments; offer a ready-made social networking platform for interaction and media brand engagement; and allow newspaper owners to ultimately phase out costly print production.

The New York Times, Washington Post and – yes – The Independent have all signed up with Amazon and will be hoping much of this vision proves correct.

But the case is no yet proven.

For a start, e-readers are designed to replicate the book reading experience (ie) you start on page one and continue to end. Newspaper consumption is not a linear experience offline, and certainly not online.

Moreover, the interent satisfies the task-driven consumption of news because of its breadth of sources, free access and ease of search in a way an e-reader will struggle to replicate.

And despite the impressive numbers – 100 countries and an estimated 10 million e-readers (of all flavours) sold by the end of 2010 – they pale when compared to the internet itself.

To this non-user, at least, Kindle feels like internet-lite.

And while there may be an attractive case for newspapers to sign-up are they confident they can take enough readers with them?

Related:
Apple Apps Emerge As Possible Paid Solution
Is Amazon About to Sell Adverts In E-Books?
Why Moleskine Is The Model For Newspaper Survival

A Year In The Life Of Newspapers

Two weeks of news-, laptop- and (thanks to my own incompetence) mobile-free living, I return with too many emails to contemplate and far too many items in my RSS reader to countenance.

But somehow this found its way into my consciousness. Made by my The Media Blog colleague Will Sturgeon, it charts the decline of newspaper circulation over a 12 month period – in a minute (well one minute, three second) video.

What We Learned About Online Video This Week

From YouTube to the iPlayer via newspaper sites offering moving pictures, the digital landscape for video already looks well-established.

But four years on from the moment we went from Dial-up Britain to Broadband Britain, we still have much to learn.

In my latest contribution to Journalism.co.uk I look at five lessons from the last seven days. Namely:

1. If you build it they will come…
(…provided you build something elegant and easy to use. And then market it like crazy.)
2. Don’t do video unless you’re adding value
3. You can’t control the message
4. Brands love YouTube
5. Death is a good career move online too

More on each here: Five lessons from a week in online video

Related:
What Chris Brown’s YouTube Apology Tells Us About New Media
The Independent Adds Video. Why?

The Independent Adds Video. Why?

We know the web blurs traditional media boundaries – broadcasters do text, radio does pictures, newspapers do video.

But sometimes those doing the doing forget to ask why?

Take the Independent’s tie-up with the Press Association. The deal provides the paper with over 100 90-second clips a week, each focusing on a single news item.

Jimmy Leach, editorial director for digital at The Independent, describes the deal thus:

“The Press Association’s expertise in providing quality news video quickly and professionally will give our video service some real immediacy and depth.”

No doubt PA makes high quality video and, yes, the deal may provide real immediacy on occasion. But depth? In 90 seconds of coverage? I’m not convinced.

If a newspaper is going to do video (or audio for that matter) it should:

  1. add value
  2. reflect its personality / agenda

I’m not sure the PA tie-up provides the Indy with either.

Why would those reading the text of a story be inclined to click the play button? Only if there’s a some killer footage in the piece (Lord Mandelson getting gunged, protesters on the streets of Tehran, Obama swatting a fly to name three random water cooler events).

In which case, why not just show that? 

The truth is most stories aren’t picture-led – producers scrabbling around for library shots to illustrate the latest interest rate decision or select committee report can vouch for that.

So in the majority of cases the paper is asking readers of a 500-word article to click and watch 90 seconds of video consisting of a 270-word script, at most, and some ‘wallpaper’ images.

If you want to watch high quality news analysis on video there are other sources including, dare I say it, from my former employer. And if you want water cooler there’s YouTube.

There’s definitely a gap for providing Indy-style reporting in video form. Unfortunately, this isn’t it.

(Kind of) related:
Five Ways News Organisations Should Use Twitter
 – The Guardian, Daily Telegraph and BBC: Lessons in Crowdsourcing
 – Scarcity, Abundance And The Misapprehension Of Online Advertising