Netbooks will save newspapers, says Slate

Categories: Media is dead
Strib graphic.jpg

Yesterday, we pointed out David Carr's suggestion that newspapers could monetize their content using an iTunes-like model. Today, Jack Shafer at Slate responds to the challenge and suggests that Netbooks will be the savior of all ink-stained wretches.

Publishers have been promising customers lightweight tablet readers for decades--see this 1994 video for a Knight Ridder demo of the concept. All of that futurism is coming true as tiny, cheap PCs known as "netbooks" reached the market. Manufactured by Asus, Acer, HP, Samsung, MSI, Dell, and others, these full-fledged PCs start at $349, the same as a Kindle. While not optimized like the Kindle for tetherless downloading of publications, netbooks are more powerful and versatile than the Kindle, and their high-res color screens make the Kindle's gray-scale display look astigmatic. As both the price and form factor for netbooks decline, we start to approach a machine that does everything that a PC does and what a Kindle does for the price of a Kindle. This review of the Fujitsu Lifebook U820 tablet PC, which costs about $1,000, gives a sense of the current state of PC technology.

But, he says, even if such a scheme could save the New York Times and other heavyweights, it may not save local dailies like the Star Tribune:

Not every newspaper will benefit from a paid online version. Many local newspapers have become irrelevant as news sources and as advertising venues. But for newspapers that still deliver the goods--the Times, the Post, and the Journal at the front of the pack--a paid electronic version could add a third leg to the existing print and Web browser franchises.

I think he puts too fine a point on it--the Strib provides a vital community service and that is what's so important to save. But it is certainly a discussion worth paying attention to considering the warning that the Strib could be bankrupt before the end of the month.

By the way, you can check out some netbooks here.


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