Biggest threat to media: iPhone, Blackberry et al.

“Whiskey” almost reached the door with the hefty New York Times Sunday edition this morning before dropping it on the porch: not bad for a 3-month-old puppy, since the paper is bigger than she is.

I also read newspapers for the ads: Besides the Super Bowl trophy from Tiffany, the full-page color ad for the iPhone at the back of the Times’ “A” section always catches my eye.

If the Times didn’t want to run an ad from a competitor, it probably wouldn’t want to run this one. But at this point, the paper  no doubt would rather collect the more than $100,000 color ad rate.

The iPhone ad showed the “apps” you can get for your iPhone: snow report from 2,000 ski areas; a Yoga workout; Loopt to track (and map) your friends whereabouts in real time; and of course, the Yellow pages. The list of “apps”— much of it original Web content — grows daily.

The ad also didn’t mention you can surf the NY Times (or the Web site of any other paper, radio or TV station for that matter) on 3G.

By contrast, we’re getting the print version of the Times for a reduced rate of $24 a month, not much less than the cost for high-speed Internet access. Internet access is free in some “hot spots.”

Nowadays smart phones are the best tool to get informed, entertained or communicate (in text and video) that I can think of. And it’s “anytime, anywhere.” It’s a whole lifestyle in the palm of your hand — something the media would kill for.

We’ve long been “early adaptors” of technology — having owned an iPhone for three years.

We’re not alone. Barack Omaba is our first president to use a Blackberry in the White House. My son is playing a game on the iPhone this morning while we read the print version of the New York Times.

Newspapers and television are no longer the “one stop shop” for information and entertainment. The best they can hope for now is to provide an “app” for the iPhone or Blackberry for readers to get their content. Too few have done that.

Smartphones also are an achilles heel for community newspapers —the last hope for the business because most are still monopolies.

Most of them dismiss smartphone readers as not being part of a “core” audience. Huh? They represent prime advertising demographics, as well as the younger readers who will make or break newspapers.

As an example, how many people who visit a world-class ski resort (at least the kind upscale advertisers want to reach) get their news on their own smartphone versus the ski town’s community newspaper in print? 

Community newspapers need to move a lot faster to make their content easier to read on a smartphone. Much of their content doesn’t read well on a smartphone — if at all.

The smartphone trend will accelerate despite the recession. Now you can buy an iPhone at WalMart.

P.S. — Enjoy the Super Bowl: I’m hoping Arizona (and Kurt Warner) can pull it out. He has seven children. Wouldn’t that be a boon for Nevada County? A high-paying wage earner and a family with seven children! Ah, he probably lives in a place like Mission Viejo.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

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