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This article was published on April 1, 2012

From Harry Potter to hoodies: Here’s the week’s media news in review

From Harry Potter to hoodies: Here’s the week’s media news in review
Paul Sawers
Story by

Paul Sawers

Paul Sawers was a reporter with The Next Web in various roles from May 2011 to November 2014. Follow Paul on Twitter: @psawers or check h Paul Sawers was a reporter with The Next Web in various roles from May 2011 to November 2014. Follow Paul on Twitter: @psawers or check him out on Google+.

There was a lot of news to chew over from this past week in the media, so we’ve taken a broad view of events and packaged them up here in an easy-to-digest bite. Where else would Harry Potter find himself up against Al Jazeera?

Reading rights

The wait is finally over. Harry Potter finally arrived in e-book format this week, which will surely see author JK Rowling add to her existing net worth of around $1bn, give or take.

Her boy wizard novel series, films and merchandise have proven immensely popular with children and adults alike around the world over the past decade, and with the final Harry Potter movie hitting cinemas last year, Pottermore will keep the Harry Potter brand ticking over nicely. Indeed, it’s said to be worth in excess of $15bn.

It took some time to arrive in digital format, and the Harry Potter books will be compatible with all the standard digital reading devices, including Kindles and Nooks, but the e-books won’t be available via the iBookstore, after Pottermore failed to reach an agreement with Apple prior to launch.

Over at Gigaom, Mathew Ingram noted that Rowling has chosen to release the books without digital-rights management restrictions. “Obviously, the success of the Potter series has given Rowling the ability to effectively dictate terms to just about anyone, even a powerhouse like Amazon, but there are still lessons that other book publishers should take from what she is doing,” he said.

“One of the encouraging things about the Pottermore launch is that the books will be available on virtually every platform simultaneously, including the Sony Reader, the Nook from Barnes & Noble, the Kindle and Google’s e-book service (which is part of Google Play),” he continued. “And in keeping with Pottermore’s status as a standalone digital bookstore in its own right, users will be able to buy the books from the Rowling site and then send them to whichever platform they wish.”

Elsewhere, Amazon’s Kindle Touch 3G finally became available on pre-order to customers in over 175 countries, ahead of its release on April 27th. Until this week, the touch screen e-reader was only available in the US. Hot on its heels though is Barnes & Noble, which incorporated in Germany on March 15, just before it arrived in London to promote the Nook to developers. There’s no smoke without fire…the Nook could finally be arriving in Europe to lay down the gauntlet to the omnipresent Kindle.

Finally, over on Pando Daily, Hamish McKenzie reckoned the future of magazines should look a lot like Spotify, whereby individual stories are sold rather than entire editions. He said:

“Break up the bundle. Present stories on an individual basis. Do to the magazine what iTunes did to the album, but do it with a Spotify model. And put it all into one app. In short: build a platform not for magazines, but for magazine stories. Here’s how it works. You have an app called something like Mag Reader. When you open Mag Reader, it shows you a list of the latest works from your favorite publications, as well as ones that align with your interests, or the stories currently most talked about on social media.”

Interesting concept for sure. And leading on nicely from this, is the issue of paywalls.

Show me the money

Paywalls have been erected over a number of top publications in recent times. But what about the Washington Post? It seems it won’t be forthcoming.

“Will you soon have to start paying to use The Post’s Web site?,” asked Patrick B. Pexton, in the Washington Post. “No, not in the short term, and maybe never, if I read the tea leaves correctly.

“Paying for online or digital content is much in the news right now because this month has seen several headlines on the subject,” he continued. “The New York Times’ digital fee system had its first birthday, and the paper reduced from 20 to 10 the number of free stories you can view per month before you have to pay; the Los Angeles Times launched its digital ‘membership program’ on March 5; and the Gannett Co. announced that its array of 80 regional newspapers — but not its flagship paper USA Today — will begin charging for online content by the end of the year. So why not The Post?”

Why not indeed. In a frank admission, Pexton says that The Post isn’t yet attracting enough readers to its website to justify closing it off behind a paywall. “Industry experts say that to make a paywall work, you have to have a loyal core of readers who come frequently to the Web site and stay a while,” he says. “This core has to be several hundred thousand readers strong before it makes sense to charge them and take the risk of losing more fickle users who will go elsewhere for online news.”

With that in mind, Mathew Ingram from Gigaom suggests publications should be creating velvet ropes rather than building paywalls, noting that publications must “build the relationship first, then let the monetization flow from that”. It sounds like that’s exactly what the Washington Post is opting to do.

Over on PaidContent, Jeff Roberts asked how far newspapers should open their paywall doors to tempt readers on board. “As newspapers lock content behind paywalls, marketers are opening that same content right back up again through campaigns that provide readers with temporary access for free,” he said. “The idea seems a good one but newspapers are still experimenting with when and how to do it.” Might we start seeing paywall-free Tuesdays’ or ‘Open House Fridays’? Maybe. Just maybe.

TV tidbits

Broadcaster Al Jazeera may have received footage of French gunman Mohamed Merah’s attacks in the cities of Montauban and Toulouse last month, but it announced on Twitter that it wouldn’t be broadcasting the horrific video.

Over in the States, it seems that Al Jazeera English will be downsizing its presence in Washington DC. “We’ll have to see what happens — but this sounds like a pretty big disruption of Al Jazeera’s high quality coverage of the American based political scene,” wrote Steve Clemons in The Atlantic. “That said, the Al Jazeera English bureaus opening in Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles are reversals of the trend in many major global news operations that are shutting down overseas bureaus.”

Elsewhere, The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), the Antipodean public service broadcasting equivalent of the BBC, marked its 80th anniversary by launching a new website called 80 Days That Changed Our Lives. Reflecting on eight decades of newsworthy and notable events, the site offers 80 segments of audiovisual content from its archives. However, the ABC is also simultaneously releasing some of these reports to Wikimedia under a Creative Commons license.

Among the footage released by ABC include an interview with Arthur C. Clarke predicting the Internet (1974), and the release of Lindy Chaimberlain from prison (1986). You can view the full archive of released material here, and these are now all available to be reused, shared and adapted.

The BBC, meanwhile, may have an arsenal of mobile apps covering News and iPlayer, but this week saw it roll out a new ‘responsive’ mobile site, tailoring news layout to suit multiple devices on mobile browsers.

“If you’re one of the large and rapidly growing number of people who use BBC News Online on more than one digital device, you’re likely to start noticing some changes in the next few weeks and months,” said Chris Russell, Head of Product for BBC News Online. “In particular, the minority of users who still use the mobile Web browser version of our product will see it change.”

Finally, rumors abounded this week that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. is making moves to launch a national cable sports TV network in the US, with one eye on making a dent in ESPN’s coffers. Given his newspaper empire is creaking at the seams, it really wouldn’t be all that surprising if he sought to bolster his media armory with another sports channel to complement Fox Sports.

Pressing matters

During the Guardian Open Weekend this week, Editor-in-Chief Alan Rusbridger was asked if the newspaper had ‘rules’ for open journalism. Rather than answering in private, he did what any ‘open journalist’ would do – and used its Twitter account to share ten interesting ideas (“not rules”) about what open journalism looks like. “Considering Twitter’s ephemeral nature, we decided to put them all together and reshare them,” wrote The Next Web’s Anna Heim.

Whatever Rusbridger’s take on open journalism, the UK publication is doing something right with its assault on the US market. Janine Gibson, editor-in-chief of Guardian US, was interviewed by on seven months in America, which has brought on board 30 more members of staff and 4m new readers.

Another US/UK media crossover emerged this week, when American media conglomerate Hearst Corporation acquired a 20% stake in Stylus Media Group, a London-based consumer intelligence provider. Hearst owns 15 daily and 37 weekly newspaper titles, including the Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle, as well as magazines such as Cosmopolitan and ELLE. Its stake in Stylus is indicative of the role data is playing in today’s increasingly uber-targeted media market.

In the tech blogosphere, AdWeek asked whether the Web needs another tech site, and it seems that eHow reckons there is room for one more. Its parent company Demand Media is targeting social media neophytes with a new tech channel that seeks to be the ‘Tech 101’ for social media noobs and digital DIY-ers. It launched last Monday.

And finally…

Sports broadcaster ESPN eventually reversed its stand against its staff posting pictures of themselves wearing hoodies, as they sought to show solidarity following the shooting of Trayvon Martin.

Fox News commentator Geraldo Rivera had suggested that the 17-year-old’s choice to wear a hooded sweatshirt was partly to blame for him being killed, and this led to many professional athletes posting pictures of themselves across the social sphere wearing hooded sweatshirts. Whilst ESPN staff were initially warned against joining in, the network decided to “allow this particular expression of human sympathy.”

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