Tablet Newspapers – Why Isn’t This a Thing Yet?

In 1994, there was a tech company called Night Ridder, promoting a fascinating concept: the newspaper, but presented on a tablet computer. For their video, click here: Tablet Newspaper

Unlike a lot of other “envision the future” videos from the 90s, this one is not at all ridiculous. In fact, in my own ponderings on how the newspaper could be saved from extinction as a mass medium, I’ve often thought of how there’s no need to redesign the newspaper for the Internet; just take the pages from the paper, make them digital, and provide a means to download them (such as a mobile app for the advanced tablets we have now). That way the newspapers keep the advertising they need to stay financially afloat (and can potentially provide higher-quality, layered, and therefore more valuable ads), and readers already know how to easily navigate the articles. The articles themselves could lose their limiting page space and word counts, and could become as long or as short as the situation requires. The consumer’s payment for the paper may even become lower or non-existent if the value of the ads rises sufficiently.

This keeps the look and feel of the paper, which people appreciate much more than the poorly-designed, difficult-to-navigate web pages that most news sources currently provide. The digital nature of it would allow for higher quality content to be displayed, avoiding the cheap newsprint and pulp and giving a clean, sharp, powerful appearance.

My biggest question is this: If the technology for this sort of development is already in existence (and it definitely is), then why haven’t even the major national news sources adopted it exclusively for their online content, abandoning or extensively modifying the web-sites they now have? The idea is in limited practice with some papers, and there are a variety of apps available for mobile devices that provide a similar service to this, but why would newspapers continue to then shoot themselves in the foot with free, unprofitable online content?

The answer is likely the competition for money. If one newspaper adapts, then their publication may no longer be free online. If the other newspapers do not adapt at the same time and continue charging nothing for their online publications, the public could decide to go with them instead.

This idea was already fully fleshed-out in 1994. In 1994 I was three. Why isn’t this a thing yet?

What do you think? What causes could be hampering the newspaper’s adaptation to tablet or “digital paper” form?

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One thought on “Tablet Newspapers – Why Isn’t This a Thing Yet?

  1. Do you think it could just be the comparative size of most electronic device screens against the size of a physical newspaper? I always find I am a little less likely to spend time on a webpage if reading it requires a lot of zooming or clicking and dragging … It seems that for a normal newspaper page layout, it would be difficult to display it well electronically without the type being too small to see…

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