Opinion

John C. Abell

A new-found app-etite for the web

Jul 27, 2011 21:06 UTC
A funny thing happened on the way to the Apple Store … Apps were supposed to be the salvation for publishers when the iPad morphed from unicorn status to the real thing last April. Plenty of publishers — newspapers, magazines and books — have built apps. Apple’s newest rules on subscriptions are placating many more.

But there is already a bit of a backlash, and a new awareness that the world wide (open) web may compare favorably to the walled gardens available on the iPad and other tablets.

Why are publishers already starting to re-think the future of media again? For one thing, there is that kickback to Apple —30% off the top — for selling through the iTunes store. Then there are those rules that seem to favor the functionality of Apple apps, like in-app purchasing. And, most ironically, there is the “Aha!” moment that the iPad itself has provided by highlighting what the optimized, mobile web can really be like.

The Financial Times blazed the back-to-the-web movement, abandoning the iTunes store in lieu of an HTML5 site that is still behind their paywall. Apple primed the pump by forbidding in-app sales. Amazon, Kobo and Barnes & Noble moved their stores from their iOS apps to the web.

And, what do you know? The public is better served: In a device-agnostic universe it’s better to buy on the web, which is everywhere, and consume as you like on whatever devices you have, can borrow, may become invented or are available. Even a clunky laptop.

The iPad and apps were supposed to be media’s best hope. But an entirely unintended consequence of Apple policies, and the reality of how content is best served up on flat, multi-touch screens, the smartphone/tablet revolution has paradoxically contributed mightily to the reinvigoration of web design.

Murdoch vs. parliament: No curtain call yet

Jul 19, 2011 19:17 UTC


Near the end of his dramatic testimony, at the end of what he called his most humbling day, a prankster tried to tag Rupert Murdoch with a pie in the face. He missed.

It may be the defining moment in the whole sordid ordeal of the cell phone hacking scandal which has beset News Corp: try as many MPs might have, it would appear at first blush that Murdoch father and son delivered the finessed performance of contrition, cooperation and combativeness that could change the tempo of the outcry against the media empire, now under fire on two continents — and possibly a third.

Murdoch’s answers will be picked apart for days — why was this the most humbling day of his career, and not his life? — but for the sake of appearances, which matter most because they will frame the meme, Rupert and James Murdoch did themselves every possible favor in an arena that could have resulted in unmitigated disaster.

Arthur Andersen. Anthony Weiner. News Corp?

Jul 13, 2011 15:59 UTC

Arthur Andersen. Anthony Weiner. News Corp?

Sure, it’s too early to “go there.” News Corp is an immense, diversified multi-national media conglomerate that has been widely reviled by many for more than a generation. For all of his detractors there are plenty of readers, viewers and shareholders who are just fine with Rupert Murdoch’s tabloidization and opinionization of the news business.

The New York Post may chronically lose money but such things are hardly news in the newspaper business. Yet the Post is a metaphor for the Murdoch empire. When Rupert amped up the sleepy New York tabloid to take on the New York Daily News, he started a media revolution with the newspaper that had been founded by Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.

It all seems so quaint now, with cable news talk show hosts having no qualm about taking sides in the style set by Fox News, and with newspapers still struggling to re-establish their relevance as a medium.

Casey Anthony is OJ’d in the first sensational Twitter era case

Jul 6, 2011 15:24 UTC
Casey Anthony has been acquitted of the most serious charges she faced in the death of her toddler, Caylee. For many, the outcome of the digital age’s equivalent of the OJ Simpson trial in 1995 was just as cringe-inducingly unexpected. 

Word of the verdict spread like wildfire, of course, making a return to a normal life for newly-famous Anthony as unlikely as it was for already-famous Simpson 16 years ago. Simpson was subsequently convicted on unrelated kidnapping and theft charges after essentially dropping out of society as best he could.

Just as some greeted the Simpson verdict with tears and disbelief, there was much the same reaction about the Anthony verdict, including other mothers and daughters who railed against the verdict on the courthouse steps.

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