There's a reason the more cynical bloggers among us have started referring to the new Apple tablet (or iSlate if you prefer) as the "Jesus tablet". Somewhere along the way this rumored product stopped being an exciting new gadget and became the universal salve to all modern ills. Don't know what I'm talking about? Read this BusinessWeek piece, or this article in the New York Times. The focus of both pieces is on the iSlate's potential to revitalize and "save" the dying print media industry. Unless you've spent the last decade and change in a cave, you're aware things aren't going too well for the old media companies. Newspapers and magazines are dropping like flies, left and right. People are buying less print than ever before, thanks to the paper-free bounty of the Internet. Why buy Mad Magazine, when Cracked.com delivers more content for free? Why subscribe to the New York Times, when Google News can keep you just as up-to-date and the Huffington Post has all the op-ed pieces you could ever want to read?Rather than killing their physical printed editions and switching to a wholly Internet-based existence (like the CSM) these old print companies have decided that the key to winning back customers is to bring them digital magazines. Several magazines have already put together demo versions of "tablet" editions, all of which look very sleek and fun to navigate. But if these old media companies think the Apple tablet is going to save their dying industry, they have another thing coming. Magazines and newspapers aren't perishing because the "right device" to read them on doesn't exist yet. They're dying because they have failed at every turn to modernize. Consumers no longer want to receive media in the way these old giants are used to providing it. You can't just look at the success of the Kindle and e-books and assume it will translate over to magazines. What these old print companies need to do is study the competition, learn from the publications that are making money these days and adapt their business models to match. Look at TechCrunch, HuffPost, or Cracked...three very successful e-publications that are kicking ass in the digital age. Those sites are not successful because they found a flashy and slick way to deliver their content to new devices. Traffic (and thus money) comes when you're able to provide something to readers that no one else can. If you can't do that, and do it at a price your readers are willing to pay, you might as well quit now and save your shareholders some green.
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