News tends to break on the fastest medium. Most news is now read on the internet first before finding its way into print. There are exceptions, such as The Guardian breaking the recent phone hacking scandal in its paper, however, as we move our media onto the internet this is becoming a rarer event. The shift is one of the things that prompted the calls that "Print is dead" etc. The problem with such statements is the close-handed nature of them. They offer no useful criticism but simply shut off discussion. It's led a number of publishers to dismiss the moves in technology, a decision which will likely impact them heavily later. But we are starting to see some fruitful shifts.
Speaking at the Turing Festival this August, Stephen Dunn from The Guardian explained how the newspaper had developed its online presence into a platform instead of simply a website. It isn't a sign of publication abandoning its print publication any time soon, rather a sign that it has acknowledged and adopted the way things are moving. It's preparing for the eventual change. It's content is available to be displayed on many sites besides The Guardian's, making them far more visible and more difficult to pin down to a single outlet. The internet allows them to become ubiquitous.
But, there is something else that's coming, something that is a bizarre hybrid of the physical print world and the virtual world. A hybrid that, on the surface, has taken the negatives of both mediums. Paul Carr, formerly of TechCrunch, has announced The New Gambit. It's an offline unprinted news source. Unlike other publications, none of its content will appear online. The only way to read it is on a a tablet or e-reader.
Carr's tired of the Search Engine Optimised (SEO) articles that fill the internet and the tactics websites employ to grab traffic. Take the recent news of Steve Jobs' death; how many of the obituaries were an homage and how many were simply for hits? By removing the immediacy of the internet Carr hopes to retain editorial integrity, they'll only write about the things that they deem important, and they'll write about them in the style that they want to.
It's bold, but it's going to be a struggle. Not appearing online means limiting your exposure. Coupled with the fact that the only way to read The New Gambit is to put money down first is going to limit initial sales. With other websites, such as The Onion's, you're able to read a few articles before you hit a pay gate. Not appearing in print, again, limits the market. Back in the 18th century The Spectator was one of England's most popular dailies. It boasted a readership of 60,000 despite only printing 3,000 copies. There were twenty readers to every copy because it was passed around. It would be left at the pub, at the coffee house, read at the breakfast table by families. This doesn't happen with e-readers, not yet anyway, they're expensive devices, certainly not something to share around. It's not like a copy of the Metro that can be just left on the tube once you're done reading it.
So, it's success relies on word of mouth and endorsements from the ebook marketplaces. If Amazon were to bundle a month's subscription to The New Gambit with every Kindle, or if it were on offer in a high publicity spot in the Apple market place it could well take off. But, as a concept, it's coming out of the negatives of both the physical and the virtual world and for that I'm very interested to see how it works out.