Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Dutch papers not on digital paper yet

The news must have come as a blow for iRex Technologies: the Dutch dailies NRC Handelsblad and de Volkskrant will not publish their newspapers on digital paper yet, according to the publishers of the respective newspapers. Gert Jan Oelderik, publisher of the NRC Handelsblad and Volkskrant publisher Rob Haans both cite the price and the consequent low penetration of the iLiad as a handicap. It is clear that the quality paper NRC Handelsblad and the morning paper de Volkskrant will not be the newspaper industry champions of the iLiad in the Netherlands. The iLiad is being tested internally in both organisations and the technical infrastructure is ready. Either of the newspapers can be presented as rich PDF files or as simple RSS text feeds. But for the time being their will not be any trial.

Rob Haans told Tonie van Ringelenstijn of the Dutch publication Emerce that the digital paper devices are still too expensive for the consumer. He considers the digital paper as a promise. The readability is okay for static material. Disadvantages are the black/white screen as well as present absence of moving images. (It is curious to see a newspaper publisher talk about the absence of moving images; three years they would not have even mentioned it). Rob Haans and Oelderik both wait for a break through. Haans does not see this happen in 2008; Oelderik expects that it will take another two or three years. He still waits for a scalable digital newspaper which looks the same on all devices, regardless the size of their screens.

In 2005 the digital paper devices were researched within PCM, the conglomerate to which both newspapers belong. Mathieu Halkes, a marketing man, concluded that another size screen is needed for reading newspapers. This conclusion concurs with the conclusion drawn by the members in the Papyrus consortium such as Bertelsmann, Vodafone and Siemens. This consortium banked on Benq, which went bankrupt.

The discussion about the Dutch dailies on digital paper was a reaction to the launch of the Kindle by Amazon. This e-reader was launched in the USA with no hard schedule for the introduction in Europe. So the European continental newspapers have not been approached to be included in the Amazon offer. In newspaper circles in the USA the Kindle is under heavy discussion. In journalistic circles like Online-News is a service of the Poynter Institute the question is posed whether the Kindle will kill books and whether it will be the saviour for newspapers. Robin Roblimo Miller estimates that the Kindle is a nice precursor of things to come, but not a market-sweeper. He is supported by a college of The Ledger, who is of the opinion that unless the Kindle evolves, the device is unlikely to be the e-reading device of choice a year or two from now. But the Kindle and the Safari browser on the iPhone are significant for popularizing the notion of taking your reading and Web surfing with you.

Steve Yelvington does not see much future in the Kindle. “As for whether Kindle will save newspapers, I don't think Kindle has anything to do with the real issues that are disrupting the newspaper business model. Newspapers are marginalized by a surplus of information and entertainment options. Retail consolidation is undermining the display advertising model. Classifieds are being displaced by unbundled, generally superior alternatives. It could be that the Kindle and/or similar iTunes-like systems could create a marketplace for the sale and distribution of certain kinds of journalism, but I'm quite sure it will not be newspapers as we have known them.

Blog Posting Number: 940

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