If it were my newspaper I’d…

A picture named football.gifMost days I stay away from making predictions, or giving people advice, but today is an exception. With the iPad about to ship, and the news industry on the ropes, it seems like a good time to put a stake in the ground, make a prediction, offer some advice.

But first a story…

Back in 1981, I was an Apple developer and was among the first to get an IBM PC (it shipped that year). The PC was a great advance over what Apple had been offering. I called it a “big blank machine" because it had 640K memory and could host relatively large and inexpensive hard drives.

The IBM PC also came with a choice of operating systems.

1. CP/M — then the leading OS, installed on most computers, including Apple’s.

2. UCSD P-system — a very popular system, largely because Apple was an early adopter. My software at the time, ThinkTank, was written to run under the P-system.

3. PC-DOS — a new operating system created by Microsoft for IBM. At the time Microsoft wasn’t a very big company. Apple was much larger, so was the publisher of the leading spreadsheet, and the publisher of the leading word processing software.

The prices of the three products were, respectively: $450, $550, $40.

So which of the three became the default choice? Do I have to even ask? smile

Even though I had made a huge investment in the P-system, and there were far more CP/M developers (there were zero PC-DOS developers), my first PC ran PC-DOS. I could have had my software running on the PC in hours, but I chose the slower route because I could tell, easily, which OS was going to win.

Now, in a way, a newspaper is to the iPad what the OS was to the IBM PC. The one that gets installed first is going to have a huge advantage over the ones that come second or third. A newspaper is an advertising platform, and the iPad probably will be a hot reading platform, and the apps (ads) will seek out the hot newspaper the same way guys like me bet on PC-DOS and ignored CP/M and UCSD.

So the best price for a newspaper on the iPad is $0. (Sorry. I know this isn’t what the news guys want to hear.)

And if you can get Steve to bundle your newspaper so that every iPad user gets a free subscription, then, when you look at yourself in the mirror you’ll be looking at one smart and newly rich person!

PS: Remember yesterday’s story about the quarterback. smile




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