Earlier this month, business tycoons Steve Jobs and Rupert Murdoch announced that they had joined forces to launch a new digital newspaper, while entrepreneur Richard Branson is planning something very similar.
With industry figures of that calibre throwing their weight behind a project, it's a least possible that their combined efforts will result in a significant industry transition.
News Corp and Apple have said they will launch an iPad-only publication entitled ‘The Daily’, while Branson’s ‘Project’ will also be launched for the iPad only.
Meanwhile, The Independent’s new newspaper ‘i’ will not be published on the web at all, rather it will be launched as a paid-for iPad app.
Computing caught up with The Independent and London Evening Standard’s managing director for digital, Zach Leonard, to find out whether or not he believes the iPad heralds the beginning of a new era for journalism.
Leonard revealed that the company had never intended to launch a free web site to complement ‘i’.
“Creating the i, and the digital strategy around it from scratch, was incredibly exciting,” he said.
“We had to work out whether we would go down the traditional route of newspaper first, web site second and then a range of apps after that. But then realised we didn't have to do it that way.”
Setting up a web site is fairly costly in terms of design and managing a CMS.
He said that it makes more sense to launch the digital edition on the iPad as the App Store attracts new users, thereby combatting the fact that the Independent does not have an online subscriber base in the same way as The Financial Times or The Times and Sunday Times – which have set up paywalls.
"The tablet allows us to provide a newspaper-like service for which we can charge exactly what we charge on a news stand."
However, the ‘i’ will not be restricted to the iPad alone, as the app will also be launched on other tablet devices.
“There are some interesting developments with Samsung’s Galaxy and RIM’s PlayBook, which interest us and fit with the next stage of our plan.”
Leonard is also skeptical of Branson, Jobs and Murdoch’s plans to launch paperless newspapers. He argues that although the Huffington Post and The Daily Beast are two successful online-only newspapers both are actually looking to launch physical versions.
“There’s something about the 2D paper experience that can’t be beaten. Having a spread in which you’re able to illustrate a story to the reader, with comment and other sub-sections too, just can't be beaten,” he said.
He also dismissed rumours that The Independent will follow in the footsteps of the Financial Times and The Times and Sunday Times by setting up a paywall.
“Whenever there is an opportunity to charge for our journalism, we’re going to take it. We haven’t made any decisions about The Independent web site though, due to the fact that the number of readers is currently rising.
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