Dispatches from Andyland "Your reality, sir, is lies and balderdash and I'm delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever!" — The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

May 26, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Andrew @ 10:24 pm

I have this big mondo blog post about the state of the media. I keep adding to it and never getting to a point where it can be finished off. I figure that I need to break it into pieces before it becomes a  Gordian Knot that I can’t untangle. Here is one easily extracted piece:

Who in the world is the GlobeReader product designed for? It promises the reader “an experience similar to your newspaper’s look and feel.” Is there really a market people who would prefer to read their news on a computer rather than paper and ink but find the web too cumbersome?  

The only other possibility that I could initially think of is the other side of news media marketing. They really have two sides to their marketing: marketing to their readers and to their advertisers. Since newspaper advertising produces far greater revenue than web advertising, it could be a product that appeals to advertisers. From what I could see of the demo, no.  At the most they show a single standard banner add at the bottom of the page. (The demo for  TimesReader, that this seems to be based on  shows no advertising at all.)

For the features that GlobeReader seems to have that Boston.com seems to lack :

  • Resizable text. (can be done to some extent with a web browser’s text resizing, but there is too much absolute positioning within the boston.com site design and you wind up with small boxes of large text.)
  • Offline access. (can be done with some RSS readers or predictive caching.)
  • Mac OS-X Aqua style transitions. 
  • An alternative, utilitiarian  site design.

Is there anything else that I’m missing?


  1. I recall reading an article sometime back about the newspapers’
    various attempts to embrace emerging technologies[1] and the
    thing that struck me was that while the papers
    tended to be early adopters of every new technology, they *always*
    made sure that they retained control of the content.

    Pre-Internet, you could get the paper electronically but you couldn’t
    do anything interesting with it. The Web, meanwhile, is all open and
    remixable and I think this is what really freaks out the papers’
    managers. Just look at all the griping about Google News, a service
    that, after all, _drives traffic to their sites_.

    Also, newspapers tend to be read differently from the web. On the
    web, you tend to flit from source to source, depending on the topic.
    (Unless it’s Metafilter, in which case you’ll read three or so
    articles at different sites on the same subject.) A newspaper, on the
    other hand, you open, skim through ’til you’re done and then throw
    away. You don’t *switch* to another paper mid article.

    I think that the Globe Reader exists because it’s a limited,
    locked-down delivery mechanism that will let you read the paper (and
    *only* the paper) while keeping those pesky unauthorized third party
    developers from making it more useful^W^W^W^Wstealing from them in
    some vague way. It has the feel of a product that exists because it
    solves the sellers’ problem and not the buyers’.

    Sort of like the Cue:Cat. Remember how well that one went?


    Comment by Chris Reuter — June 1, 2009 @ 7:49 pm

  2. Hmmm. WordPress seems to have eaten the URL. It’s:


    Comment by Chris Reuter — June 1, 2009 @ 7:50 pm

  3. OK, thanks for another reminder that I need to get out more of the big mondo article in my head, some of your comments correspond to the larger piece I want to write. Shafer’s article leads to some conclusions while leaving out some counterpoints I think are important, but he leaves off some of the more interesting questions.

    Yes, you read a newspaper differently from reading a news article on a web page. That might skew web traffic higher than justified (x million visitors a month vs. y thousands readers a week. It sounds higher, but does it really count if many of those visitors only read 1 article?) It also might be the flaw that keeps web sites ads from being as valuable as newspaper ads to advertisers. (if someone visits 5 web sites a session, advertise with the one charging the lowest CPM. If a newspaper has you as a reader, they have you.)

    On the other hand, I don’t think they are thinking “how do we keep them from stealing…” The information is already gone on boston.com, that horse has left the barn. Its trivial to find blatent copyright infringement of the Boston Globe that they do nothing about. (and do nothing about even when I was an an employee and report it to management, which they told me reported it to in-house council)

    I’d bet they actually do get people asking for something like GlobeReader, newspaper readers or subscribers saying that they are afraid that the era of print is ending, but don’t find boston.com and the web to be a good substitute. I’m not sure if there are many (it reminds me of the Scott Adams ISDN interoperability lab story. I can only find it on the web by reference here search for “analogy”.) I had a similar problem with the Boston Sunday Globe’s “bulldog edition” (the Sunday paper on Saturday) I bet when the asked people why the didn’t buy/subscribe to the paper they said the didn’t have time to read it. Adding an extra day still wouldn’t help the non-readers become readers.

    But in the end, yes it is a product that solves the producers problem more than the consumers.

    Comment by andrew — June 4, 2009 @ 10:19 pm

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