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It’s cool — no question. I would love to have an iPad. But will it change anything about my news reading? And will it make people more willing to support news? Doubtful.

To be a game changer for news, the iPad would have to do one of two things. It would have to convince people who don’t now consume news to start consuming it. Or it would have to convince advertisers that their ads on the large, bright iPad screen are more valuable, so they would be willing to pay higher rates or shift more advertising to news sites. Doubly doubtful.

Magazines and newspapers may look and feel better on the touchscreen iPad. And, for those folks who are already sold on reading the print versions, they may well be convinced to do their reading electronically because of the iPad or new color e-readers. They may even pay for the e-subscription, rather than the print subscription. Though colleague Sean Reily points out that publishers won’t necessarily earn a profit on those fees, since the fees are now largely controlled by the hardware makers.

“Even if a news creator gets so far that they have quality and unique content positioned on an E Reader or tablet, as of today there is still no sufficiently viable business model to deliver them a return. That aspect of this business is evolving as well, just much more slowly.”

For advertisers, the question is reach. Can the iPad turn around the shrinking numbers of people who read newspapers and magazines by making it a more print-like or convenient experience? Not if I’m any indicator of how people increasingly use social media and try to efficiently organize their search for relevant and important news.

I don’t want to flip through online publications. I want to be guided straight to what interests me and I use whatever connection is handy, whether smart phone or a laptop. An iPad’s large screen would be fun, but plenty of people are watching videos and even reading books on cell phones.

A gadget like the iPad won’t convince the non-consumers of news to start consuming it. Of course not. The decline of news is not about the platform; it is about whether people value the news they get on a platform. No gadget or magic business model will turn around the news business simply by making it easier to read or pay for news. People pay, with money or loyalty, for what provides clear and immediate value in their lives.

A new poll confirms one reason why the public doesn’t value mainstream news. They don’t trust it. Public Policy Polling asked a sample of 1,151 registered voters if they trusted each of 5 TV news networks. From one third to one half said yes, depending on the network. Not a ringing endorsement. The results are in line with other polls on trust in journalism, and that trust has been steadily declining for over 25 years.

The Internet provides people with huge choice about where and how to get news and information. And if people are paying less attention to mainstream news media, it’s because they don’t find it trustworthy, relevant and valuable to their daily lives. That’s what needs to be fixed. Whatever increases the value of news in the public’s eyes will be the real game changer.



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