Mark Fiore can win a Pulitzer Prize, but he can’t get his iPhone cartoon app past Apple’s satire police

Awkward, isn’t it, Apple? To censor the App Store, keeping it free from the offensive nature of these Pulitzer Prize winning political cartoons?

Mark Fiore can win a Pulitzer Prize, but he can’t get his iPhone cartoon app past Apple’s satire police

A Newsstand for the Tablet that might work

“Newsstand” by triin on Flickr.

Mario Garcia probably believes the lifespan (halflife?) of print newspapers will stretch out ever so slightly longer than I believe, but I’m constantly inspired by his original thought about the problems associated with sustaining any version of the existing structure of journalism, assuming for the moment that it’s a good idea.

And of course, he’s thinking about the Tablet. (I’m going to try to avoid focusing on any single product here, instead using the word “Tablet” as code for: multitouch slab of glass with applications and payment systems built in. Maybe there will be more than one entry in that genre.)

Here’s Mario on something he calls a street sales app:

“Based on this, I can imagine that the iPad could lure the undecided (or reluctant) newspaper reader by offering a menu of headlines from various sections of a newspaper—-or from various newspapers, of course, and make it so interesting, that I may click to read that story, and pay for that one-time user experience.”

Let’s take that a big step beyond a list of headlines.

We’re talking about a physical, visual device that allows the user to move things around with their hands. OK, their fingers. Fine. But that allows us to present the user with — instead of a list of headlines — a stack of newspapers.

Yes, yes, I know, I know, you don’t want to read a giant PDF on a Tablet, you want the Web. You want the full browsing experience, or if you’re thinking is slightly more advanced, you want a completely new sort of interface that’s more Minority Report than Washington Post.

I’m right there with you.

But there’s something that a “Washington Post” app for the Tablet removes from the equation, even if you’re smart enough to build it with in-app purchases of feature/exclusive/enterprise stories, puzzles, and databases.

It removes choice from the equation.

A choice that we do have when we open up an RSS reader and look at a list of 100 headlines in the morning.

A choice that we do have when we walk by a newsstand on the way to the subway station.

Now, truth be told, when I walked by the newsstand on the way to the subway station, I was already in a silo, with steadfast plans to purchase a New York Times and do the crossword on the way to the office. But at least I’d see the other papers, the other headlines.

So maybe a real live Tablet Newsstand is a good idea. If I’m not going to purchase a subscription to the New York Times, maybe I’ll glance at the headlines and buy a copy on my way to the office now and then. Maybe I’ll want to do the crossword. Or maybe I’ll see a great headline in the San Francisco Chronicle and buy that instead.

After all, the interfaces for a bookstore and library that Steve Jobs showed off the other day didn’t offer one chapter at a time, or one story at a time, they offered a book, sitting on a shelf.

Engadget’s photo of Steve’s slide.

(Yes, I’ve heard of Delicious Library.)

Of course, things brings up all sorts of interesting questions about which newspaper and magazine publishers would be willing to go in together on this sort of thing. They’d have to build the app themselves, decide how to split up the revenue, who to feature on which pages — this is all the sort of thing they might have preferred Apple take care of, eh?

So I’m interested. I’m interested in a newsstand that provides some opportunity for serendipity and revenue, not based on subscription models or paywalls, but based on the idea that I might pay something like 99 cents for a Tablet version of the New York Times when I’m in the mood to interact with it and, most likely, fiddle with the crossword on the way to work.

Repackaging the unbundled

Scott Karp (yes, he’s my boss over at the office) is more fascinated than I am about Google’s new FastFlip, but he’s wisely focusing on the fact that it’s an experiment with a new user experience for online news, and not implying that it’s something poised to Save Journalism.

Scott’s latest post on the topic argues that “content doesn’t matter without the package.”

“Newspapers’ inability to generate the same revenue online as in print has nothing to do with content. It’s because on the web they are no longer in the business of packaging content, and that’s what the newspaper business, like every other media business, has always been about. Instead, media companies put their content on the web and let search and other aggregators package it.”

It’s that last part that’s most interesting. I mean, it’s no surprise that the news business in the age of the Web now operates in a world of unbundled media, where the mp3 is currency, and the album is an outdated package. The individual news story, blog post, or tweet is not something we’re willing to pay for as consumers, even though we might occasionally still drop a few quarters in a box for a Sunday New York Times print edition — a packaged product that includes a bunch of individual items and products that we’re interested in. (For me, it’s just about the crossword, and it’s been multiple years since I last purchased said paper for said purpose.)

But.  How do we consume all those broken up pieces of content, news, information, and commentary online?

Maybe we use Google Reader. (A package of RSS feeds we’ve selected.)

Or Twitter. (A package of microblogging feeds we’ve selected.)

Once upon a time, people paid for software like RSS readers. (NetNewsWire in its heyday.)

Today, some people pay for Twitter clients like Tweetie, and many, many more pay for iPhone apps that package individual bits and streams of information into a pleasant interface that minimizes both button-pushing and waiting, two things of limited desirability when a human being is mobile.

The iPhone app package is so useful and valuable to us as consumers, that we’re even willing to pay for niche content like a Miami Dolphins app from a news organization.


  • What other repackaged interfaces for unbundled media will consumers be willing to pay for?
  • How do you consume news and information? Do you navigate from site to site, or do you operate a packaged interface?
  • Which companies, organizations, and individuals are winning at repackaging unbundled media?