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iPad: The Great Nature Theatre of (non-rolling) News

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Paul Mason | 08:58 UK time, Wednesday, 27 April 2011

In the last chapter of Kafka's Amerika, there is a scene where Karl, the hero, gets lured into watching, then joining, a grand enterprise called the Grand Nature Theatre of Oklahoma.

As he arrives at the racecourse where the circus is to be staged he hears the sound of trumpets "not playing in tune, just wild playing. But that didn't bother Karl, rather it confirmed to him what a great enterprise the Theatre of Oklahoma was." A disorderly queue forms; nobody is sure what for. Eventually he's offered a job playing the trumpet.

I've come to see this chapter as a giant preview for the digital communications revolution in general, but after queuing for - and eventually being allowed to buy - an iPad 2 it now has a very specific resonance.

You queue; everybody in the queue wants the same thing; everybody is happy, filled with anticipation that they are going to enter the new world if they just wait long enough, answer the right questions, embrace the new experience. You get to the head of a queue and are led upstairs to join the back of a new queue; a bright young person eventually comes to greet you, take your order, sell you an extra foldy thing to cover the screen and then it comes.

You switch it on and... well, yes, you really are in a new continent. You are in the Grand Nature Theatre of Oklahoma. Above all, if you are in the business of news, you are finally back in business.

Five years ago I wrote an article which the Guardian unhelpfully headlined "Rolling News RIP". In it I predicted that, as video and audio content populated the web, the realtime rolling news channel would be replaced by "instant access" content. TV execs had been right, I said, to wage a battle for the rolling news space (ITV had just surrendered), but:

"Rolling news is no longer the future. In 2004 the average broadband household spent 16 hours a week online. As anyone who uses any half-decent news platform on the web understands, the internet is faster, delivers instant depth and unrivalled interactivity. Rolling news - and here I mean the concept of a separate channel and its traditional front-end studio format - is the genre of television least suited to survive the transition to the digital age."

At the time (January 2006) BBC News 24 and Sky News were each being watched for 9 minutes a week by the average viewer, while the ITV offering had garnered two minutes of eyeball time. Fast forward to today and Sky gets ten minutes, while the BBC is achieving 19 minutes. The average weekly reach has moved: Sky got 11.6% then and gets 9.5% today; BBC News 24/Newschannel got 13.2% in 2006 and now gets 18.2%. See latest Barb figures here.

So at one level I was too pessimistic. But on another level I was right - and once you've got an iPad, or one of the rival Android based devices, in your hands you know why.

Apart from the apps I need for writing (Pages and Celtx) and messing around (SmartGo Kifu since you ask) the apps I am using most are those produced by news organizations and for social media.

Twitter is my first port of call because - and this is still stunning to write, even though I've admitted this to myself weeks ago: Twitter is now my primary destination for breaking news.

I follow mainly news people and authoritative tweeters in the USA, China and the Middle East so if I want to know what's going on in Syria today, or Libya, I quickly scroll through the tweets of the people I trust to tell me: often these are retweets of first hand accounts such as:

Nabeel Rajab
Arrest of student at the University of Bahrain Narjis Abdullah after troops stormed a house after breaking the door 3 clock morning #bahrain

(incidentally I don't know if this is true but I can check it out).

After that, what I used to do when I only had an iPhone was scan the newspaper apps: the Guardian's estimable one; the FT's rather grudgingly updated one that costs me an arm and a leg as part of my online sub; the WSJ and NYT and Washington Post and, if I am feeling like a giant headline, Huffington Post.

But not anymore.

Now I go to the broadcasters, above all - for the richness of experience - Sky News. Sky, for the uninitiated, has launched the mother of all news apps for the iPad/tablet audience.

At its centre is a closed and finished piece of video. What we used to call a package. Hovering around this will be all kinds of related content - served in the seamlessly automatic way me and my fellow dotcom execs used to dream of with text only in our failed attempt to create a computing business website for Reed Business Information in the late 1990s.

For example there is a superb five minute (yes five minute, which for the uninitiated is Newsnight-length) VT from Alex Crawford in Misrata. Surrounding it are an image gallery of photos shot by a producer on the scene (yes a producer); a text article with more depth; a table outlining the main Libyan tribes; a quote from President Obama and an annotated map. All are inter-active and if you click on a tab saying back story there is a date-tagged timeline of similar content.

It is comprehensive. And on the iPad, as on other tablets, the whole thing sparkles. Sky shoots in HD. The screen is small but big enough to make HD look really brilliant when held about 2 feet away from you. Though Sky's app has set the industry ablaze, doubtless other news organisations will soon have something just as whizzy. But the TV people are in the lead.

In fact all TV begins to look very good on an iPad: within hours of getting it me and my wife switched off the Ten O'Clock News on the TV and watched it live on the BBC iPlayer instead: it was a better experience in all ways as long as you can avoid getting your Chicken Biryani on the screen.

My big complaint about Sky's app content is that it's not easy to link to it: I can't link you direct to the Alex Crawford report via this blog or via Twitter. In fact the general non-shareability of app content is, well, a bit Kafkaesque.

And that's a shame because my predictions about the TV package are being proved right, though in ways I could not have imagined five years ago. I wrote that rolling news had begun to kill the art of the package:

"Rolling news was always going to be a world of talking heads. In the process, we lost the concept of "story" - an editorial process whose outcome is a narrative with a beginning, middle and end, and hopefully a meaning. During the rise of rolling news that was something we just had to live with. Now we don't.

"The internet as a medium has no fear of the finished narrative: "on-demand" news, downloaded as individual stories or bulletins, fits naturally with the interactive instincts of web users, which they are bringing to broadband TV as it emerges. The finished story also fits in with the economics of broadband. Everything else in this medium is designed to be stored, shared or sold."

Now both the Sky News and BBC News iPad apps are, essentially finished news packages plus supporting text. There is an option to switch to the live output, but I have not found myself using it. What I do is follow the news as it breaks on Twitter or - if I am in the vicinity - the TV: and then click on the finished content on the iPad.

However what's happening to the finished content is also interesting. Right now, running against Sky's Misrata report is a BBC story about the UN probing human rights abuses in Misrata (again - the iPad app is not allowing me any form of link out to this). The video content is an unedited (except for an inpoint and an outpoint) of a head and shoulders announcement by Liam Fox MP, the Defence Secretary, about the use of Predator drones. The story as presented therefore is far more of a montage: here's the written story and here by the way is a bit of original footage of a politician talking.

The Sky package, while it uses all the techniques of shooting and editing we use on Newsnight, is interesting in that it allows people to speak at length; it is informal; the camera joggles about in the burnt-out shelter where a tank has been destroyed. The narrative is much less imposed than it would have been five or ten years ago: we are simply allowed to be there, to follow the Libyan fighters through their rat-runs, shell holes. We are "there". (A horrible thought occurs that it looks very like the Battlefield 3 trailer; I throw in this thought for further discussion.)

On top of news apps there are a growing number of apps that let you construct your own magazine from the content linked-to by people you know or follow on Twitter and Facebook. I've been trying these out - Zite, Flipboard etc. For me they are not so interesting because I am essentially into making my own choices about what to do in a stressed and busy work environment and do not want to read/view other people's trivia served up by an algorhythm that thinks it knows me. However, these personal aggregation apps are another form of digital news that I could not have imagined before.

Finally there are two apps worth mentioning that I think will complete the circle of this news revolution: iMovie and Garage Band. The audio input on the iPad is good enough to broadcast, even without a USB microphone, once edited on Garage Band; the video is not so great and cannot be zoomed; but iMovie again allows you to create and edit "good-enough" video packages.

I don't think it will be long before we start to get broadcast content made on the very devices through which it will be consumed, though you will never achieve great HD for several more iterations of the technology.

Five years ago I thought we would begin to see the replacement of rolling news by non-rolling, and at the same time more instant and less "presented" news content. I had no concept that digital devices like the tablet would come along. Nor that e-Books would take off (I downloaded and found the relevant passage from Kafka's Amerika on the iPad's Kindle app in the first five minutes after I decided to write this post).

What's happening now is the emergence of rich, instant digital content alongside rolling news; plus the emergence of reliable social media as a news source, circumventing the mainstream media and at the same time forcing its agenda (I learned most of what I wanted to know about the Bristol riot from the social media and even now for richness and diversity of coverage of that event and its aftermath, social media beats mainstream).

Now, in the news business, everybody is in the same business. What matters is richness, shareability, and the ability to in some way monetise (for everybody except the BBC) this new, attractive content.

The crucial attribute for tablet news is what I call "sparkleosity": does it move, swoosh, twinkle? Does it invite me do do things with it, share it, come back for more?

I've always said to newspaper execs bewailing the unwillingness of the public to pay for news: build something worthwhile and they will come. Alfred Harmsworth produced 40 dummy issues of a new kind of newspaper before launching it on the world and changing the whole business: it was the Daily Mail and people liked it so much they began to form the same kind of queues to buy it that you now see in the Apple Store (the initial print run of 100,000 had to be upped to 500,000 in six months).

Actually the Daily Mail's website is now booming because it's followed the same instinct: launch something different online to what you get from those blue-black headlines of middle class doom on paper. (Interestingly its iPad app sucks, to offer a personal opinion: it lacks the sparkle of its website - but as I say everbody is just in year Zero).

As it turned out it was not the newspaper men who produced something new and sparkly: it was Steve Jobs, and the guys at Sky who came up with what for me is one of the first apps that totally lives and breathes on the tablet platform.

So, as the billboard shouted to Karl in that fictional mid-western racecourse, so the tablet shouts to news executives everywhere, breathlessly:

"The great Theatre of Oklahoma calls you! If you miss your chance now you miss it for ever! If you think of your future you are one us! Everyone is welcome!"

** Just so I meet all the requirements: as well as the iPad there are numerous tablet devices and they all do roughly the same thing, from Samsung, LG, HP and upcoming Sony. Here's a link to a bunch of them.


  • Comment number 1.

    Paul, just be careful that you don't get too hooked on 21st Century soma.

    Before long, the great Theatre of Oklahoma will be little more than one man trumpeting for ninety minutes with his backside, Idiocracy style:

    The people want "Ow, my balls" on TV, and Murdoch et al will provide:

    Does anyone in media read Neil Postman, or is that just a no-go zone?

  • Comment number 2.

    "You queue; everybody in the queue wants the same thing; everybody is happy, filled with anticipation that they are going to enter the new world if they just wait long enough, answer the right questions, embrace the new experience. You get to the head of a queue and are led upstairs to join the back of a new queue; a bright young person eventually comes to greet you, take your order, sell you an extra foldy thing to cover the screen and then it comes."

    When read this I could help thinking it was a religious experience - good news - the gospel according to Jobs!

    What is worth looking forward to with the technology trends and thinking of Syria is the transmission of live and covert video of the street level reality of the repressive actions of even the most oppressive and brutal of states - the end of effective government propaganda?

  • Comment number 3.

    Either the Guardian has got it's 'Paul Mason' mixed up in it's author profiles or a different Paul Mason wrote that article headlined Rolling News RIP...

    "Paul Mason is director of postgraduate research at Cardiff University. His research focuses on the relationships between the criminal justice system, public opinion and the media. He is a member of the prison abolition group No More Prisons and edited the Journal for Crime, Conflict and Media Culture from 2004-2006"

  • Comment number 4.

    Hawkeye - thanks for the Idiocracy link. If I ever get back to reading "for fun" Amusing ourselves to death is also on my reading list.

    Does anyone else who does not work in the media think that tablet PCs are just flat laptops and +not+ a paradigm shift? Computers are great because I can produce something powerful with zero help from the state. If I have a keyboard. Without a keyboard I can only use it for consuming, not producing. Symptomatic of our age that such items are regarded as a step forward.

  • Comment number 5.

    50 years ago the BBC controlled the news in a paternalistic way.
    More recently money has been the driver & the childish shock & awe or celeb vulgarisation.
    It's now getting harder for the 'ruling' class to control our knowledge of what is going on.
    We can now all post on twitter & many are doing so out of a sense of justice, not for money.
    People power is increasingly a force to be reckoned with & soon to be knocking on the doors of government.

  • Comment number 6.

    Paul, you must have shares in Apple!

    Apple could not have wished for a better piece of advertising even if they had written it themselves.

    'Does anyone else who does not work in the media think that tablet PCs are just flat laptops' - YES!

    'The crucial attribute for tablet news is what I call "sparkleosity": does it move, swoosh, twinkle?'

    Good grief!

  • Comment number 7.

    Paul does not have shares in anything...he's just a very naughty boy...

  • Comment number 8.

    When will we get an Android app equivalent to the iPad one provided by the BBC?

    "Sky, for the uninitiated, has launched the mother of all news apps for the iPad/tablet audience."
    It is not for all the tablet audience. It is only for the walled garden Apple devices.

  • Comment number 9.

    Very interesting and thought provoking post. Since the iPad came along I realised this was "something"-not the end point, but a pointer to the end point.
    I think also, Hawkeye, that Neil Postman has been partly eclipsed by the emergence of the technology, which seems to to be going, sociologically speaking in two (or more) directions simultaneously- one of which is the amused to death' or more correctly 'amused to complete social cultural and intellectual impoverishment' route. That is the world of the 'Sun online'-it will inevitably plumb deeper and deeper depths of depravity.
    However it is also true that the technology is creating an unprecedented level of awareness or 'intelligence' for those that can cope, and keep abreast.

    My fear is that many people empowered by the technology will be persuaded that the technology is more instrumental than it really is, and can 'prevent' bad things happening-or perhaps a grim complacency to the creation of a huge technological casualty rate.
    Personally I think there is a huge danger that technology is likely to mesmerise and shield the empowered users from the growing digital division.

    It is also true that those on board at the moment will themselves begin to cry foul when they find they are no longer at the cutting edge-the process is really that unstable and unpredictable.
    what will happen if the Indian or Chinese or both social conditions begin to overwhelm the advantages gained by those in the west.

    Deeply troubling and interesting times.

    I recently got to play with a little nex 5 camera and my brain also boggled here, as it brought amazing video and stills quality in a tiny package, which is very very adaptable, and to the people who can be bothered to exploit it qualities, incredibly effective.

    (Paul, get a nex 5 if you want good video. That and a 'tablet' of some kind will be incredibly powerful.

  • Comment number 10.


    If Postman were alive I'll wager that he'll view this technology as just a further extension of his fears, descending us into this "complete social cultural and intellectual impoverishment", as you say.

    As I and others have noted, the technology merely serves to:
    - distract attention from genuine news
    - provide a source of revenue (walled gardens #8)
    - promote further consumption activity rather than production (#4)
    - bloat the mind with minutiae trivia served at rapid speed
    - render our society incapable of lengthy and weighty intellectual discovery and debate

    A small fraction of tweets do seem (superficially at least) to convey subject matter which is worthy (e.g. unrest in Tunisia / Eygpt / Syria delete as appropriate). But quite often the massacres continue regardless, whereas the Western voyeurs feel assuaged that they did their bit. Did they really have that much power in the palm of their hands?

  • Comment number 11.


    yes with some many options official news like bbc is becoming more obvious in their propagandising mission be it climate change nonsense, monarchy role gaming apartheid, multicultural marxism etc. look at tues blog to see how many posts referred which is a new NN trend? there was nothing 'wrong' with any of them.

    if everyone is following everyone else on twitter who is actually breaking news? doing investigations?

  • Comment number 12.

    You can take your 100 must read books and your Orwell shortlist, the true sign of a man of culture and sophistication is a go player. Very interesting to know

  • Comment number 13.

    The Russians have a better word than consumerism, but much more derogatory: "vyeshchism", from the word "vyeshch" which means "thing".

    I agree with Hawkeye, Ben, and museV (with Stevie's qualification) at once. That must be a first! We didn't have a television 'til I was eight - my dad got one so that he could watch TW3. We had a very rich life though.

    One must not get too obsessed with toys!

  • Comment number 14.

    Paul, you are past the age when you can consume bacon and salt with impunity! Go for granary bread and dont touch that sugar.

  • Comment number 15.

    Hampered by a mere CPU and monitor combo, I will attempt to keep up, even though an iPad is evidently 'better'.

    While twitter has a role, and value, aspects of its contribution to raise concern.

    'Twitter is my first port of call because .. Twitter is now my primary destination for breaking news.

    I follow mainly news people and authoritative tweeters ... I quickly scroll through the tweets of the people I trust to tell me: often these are retweets of first hand accounts ... (incidentally I don't know if this is true but I can check it out).'

    'People' may be 'authoritative' and 'trusted', but without some old school values as a foundation, this can lead to problems...

    And closing for comments is not always the best 'fix'.

    Because it is so immediate, citing Twitter almost inevitably seduces shortcuts on verification. And slapping it out in broadcast or down in print seems hardly serving reporting well even with the caveat 'I don't know if this is true but I can check it out'. If one doesn't know, then wait until you do before raising it (I presume the featured tweet was before hitting 'post'?)

    No matter what tools the new media age throws up, some of the basics could still benefit from being applied before rushing stuff out.

    'the ability to in some way monetise (for everybody except the BBC) this new, attractive content.'

    The obsession with 'scoops' would suggest that monetisation instantaneously is pretty much the prime motivator over accuracy these days. Even by those within the BBC, where the rewards are simply translated into something more personal, career-wise. Presuming it is accurate, of course.

    Or, it seems, even if not.

  • Comment number 16.

    This blog post has damaged my opinion of a blog author more than anything else I've ever read. Partly because I hold Paul in very high esteem so he has much further to fall than most, but partly because it's such disturbing tripe.

    What on earth is wrong with the BBC micro-culture that produces so much technically inept, middle-aged, down-with-the-kidults twaddle. The BBC obsession with Apple and Twitter is, as a techie, deeply disturbing as neither are new ideas or in any way "game changing".

    Anyone can produce smaller devices with better resolution when their unit price is way above their competitors. All you need is great marketing and a bunch of old rich people who want to be tech-trendy. Count how many old people you see with ipads compared to youngsters. The young can't afford them! What social demographic would have an ipad in Egypt to film on? I don't think they would be the common man.

    Twitter is essentially an online forum, which allows you to watch the activity of other forum users. Only the uptime is much better on forums.

  • Comment number 17.

    Remember Marshall McLuhan?
    "The medium is the message."
    People still search for the meaning of this McLuhan quotation. McLuhan of course was not saying that the "message" should be ignored.
    McLuhan meant exactly what he said.
    He was concerned that we tend to focus on the obvious. There is an "it" out there and an "I" in here and of course: the medium. In making observations we miss the big picture, the subtle changes. e.g. We invent, many of its potentialities are obvious to us. We generally know what the invention will do, or at least what it is intended to do...but, after a long period of time, we look backward and realize that there were some effects which we failed to see: "unintended consequences" or "unanticipated consequences".
    These arise from the fact that there are conditions in our society that we just don't "see", at least unless we apply brain-power: These range from cultural issues, historical precedents, etc. There are far more dynamic processes occurring than comprise the actions that we happen to notice.
    McLuhan: A "message" is, "the change" that a new invention/innovation "introduces. This has nothing to do with its actual use but the change in dynamics. Thus, the message of theatrical production is not the content, but more the change in tourism that may result or the revolution that may start.
    Similarly, the "message" of a newscast is not the news itself, but the change in the public attitude towards the news e.g. an ongoing climate of fear. McLuhan tells us to look beyond the obvious "message" and seek the non-obvious psychological impacts - enhanced, accelerated...
    McLuhan defines medium for us as well. Medium is "any extension of ourselves." The medium of language extends our thoughts from within our own mind to the mind of others. That's powerful! Thoughts result from our individual sensory experience e.g. writing is an "outing" of our senses. Whereas usually our senses bring the world into our minds, the written word takes our sensually-shaped minds out into the world.
    In other words, a medium - this extension of our body or senses or mind - is anything from which a change generates. And since some sort of change emerges from everything we produce - inventions, innovations, ideas and ideals are MCLUHAN MEDIA. "The medium is the message."
    McLuhan warns us that we are often DISTRACTED by the content of a medium. In fact, he wrote: "It is only too typical that the 'content' of any medium blinds us to the character of the medium." It%

  • Comment number 18.

    OK. Here it is again, in pictures this time:

    "Postman is no Luddite; he is not advocating for a complete withdraw from technology. Such a proposition is not even tenable. Rather, Postman wants us to look at the technology that we use with an eye that is somehow “above” the content of the technology."

    It wasn't just that Postman re-asserted McLuhan's point, but that he also weaved in Lewis Mumford too:

    So, the key question is whether the iPad is yet another example of our thirst for Megatechnic and Monotechnic solutions (rather than Biotechnic and Polytechnic ones)?

  • Comment number 19.

    Some 'tashy bald white guys rap nonsense for your piepad :

  • Comment number 20.

    Some powerful postings here.

    Ben, I think you are being rather harsh. Media professionals are inevitably 'into' the technology, it is their job-they can't avoid it, even if they disapprove. I think Paul is effectively describing the dilemma and a degree of scepticism by reference to Kafka's 'Amerika'.

    It is undoubtedly a Faustian bargain but no one knows when Mephisto is going to arrive to claim his part of the bargain. My feeling is that the moment is not so far off.

    Postman was mainly concerned with broadcasting and the 'TeeVee' mentality that was replacing more direct and personal human activity and communication.

    Many ordinary people were aware as long ago as the sixties of the dire social effects that TV had led to. Many communities were readily seen to have slumped into a dangerous apathy through the fifties, but there was never any clear evidence that it had much to do with TV, although, personally, I am sure Postman was right in his analysis.

    It was a constant reference or debating issue for many people, including my very working class, left school at fourteen, parents and neighbours, but we were nearly all in thrall to duplicitous theorising, mainly from the establishment, and the, to be fair genuinely in many cases, good quality of entertainment. The value to 'centralised power' is so enhanced by a controlled, mass system of communication. It needed its bait and the BBC was pretty good at baiting the hook.

    Broadly speaking it was actually mostly agreed by the population that the price was worth paying. In those far off days there was a much greater sense of a collective national consciousness, and national purpose-there was very little 'diversity' in the population for most people who mostly had close connections to long established communities. The BBC provided a national comfort blanket, or perhaps a shroud, for the cataclysmic collapse of empire. However, even with its limitations, the TV was providing some exposure to material that was instrumental in developing consciousness. The reality for most people was of the BBC filtered world, or nothing.
    It was a view of some sort, if a narrow one.

    Hindsight tells us that, of course, it provided a shallow access to an elitist guiding or controlling perception of 'quality', by centralising compliant talent around the one institution, a glorified variety of posh, paternalistic Stalinism, and compromised many peoples' ability to engage and develop personally at deeper levels, and cope more realistically with changing times.
    (The idiot's lantern was a very common expression back then).

    Interactivity of modern mass media is perhaps overstated, in many quarters but I do think it is creating real effects, even if there is a tendency to fantasise them for a mixture of reasons. (Jobs is undoubtedly the victim of his own hubristic 'cult'. I predict nemesis. (For anyone interested I watched a particularly brutal episode of "South Park" last night which pretty well shredded Jobs and his Millenarian occultism -shielding the naked self-interest of corporatism).

    However despite the arguably marginal nature of forums such as this, it does provide an enlightening and more varied window on a complex world which is, I think and hope, is creating real effects.

  • Comment number 21.

    deepgreenpuddock - don't get me wrong - I love technology. The internet is, for my money, the most important invention for many a decade. Both tv and the internet have the capacity for near infinite good. The difference is the barrier to entry for producers. TV must have seemed like an incredible opportunity to educate and enlighten the masses. Unfortunately because most people want to watch rubbish, companies respond with rubbish. Because the barrier to producing one's own tv channel is high and the number of people who want to watch programmes that are challenging is low such content is rarely made.

    The internet has near-zero barrier to entry for a plain text page on whatever subject you like. Google bridges the gap between the producer and the consumer for "free". Technology allows replies to be posted.

    This is all immensely powerful stuff. It has changed the world and will continue to do so. The education on offer on the internet is just so exciting I could never do it justice. It's awesome.

    None of the above that I have written is in any way effected by whether I connect to the internet with a tablet PC or a laptop or a regular PC, except that tablet PCs are not for typing on and are intended mainly for "consuming". That in itself has it's place but to think that tablet PCs are a paradigm shift is just wrong.

    The internet happened a long time ago. It's big and maybe old people are just cottoning on to bits of it, but the ipad and twitter are not a big deal even though they look pretty, make you feel like you are with the kids and the tv said they are cool. This doesn't mean they are the devil. It's just annoying to have the BBC banging on about them all the time.

  • Comment number 22.

    The internet makes direct democracy much easier & therefore more likely.

    People don't defer to their 'betters' & get so easily taken in by those who claim to represent us but are just on their own ego trip.

  • Comment number 23.

    I don't share your excitement about the iPad or technology's emancipationary potential. These tablet PCs will just be another needless expense in our lives. I'm sure that people who have these will soon think that they can't live without them and it will up end controlling their lives (well at least till when iPad3 comes out!!). Marx's concept of alienation is alive and kicking.

    Technology has also a great potential to distort Truth. We already know how the mass media distorts Truth; the internet can easily be used for the same ends. At the moment the State does not how to deal with the internet, but it is learning fast. My experiences of posting on Israel/Occupied Territories subject blogs on the BBC have shown that many people post similar comments using the same incorrect information but in different blogs. The Israeli government recruits 'friends' to articulate its message in cyberspace. On a BBC blog you only need about five or so people posting more or less the same thing to give the impression that their view is the majority view; while opinion polls say something else.

    It won't be long till the Internet will be little different than the mass media; the Truth will still be there but you'll have to search for it, and when you show people some Truth they won't believe you or think the website you linked to is run by nut jobs. Plato's analogy of the cave is alive and kicking.

  • Comment number 24.

    Good piece; though News won't be the driving force on the iPad, Art and Culture will.

    TV has never given up on news in the way it did about culture.
    The BBC once had many art programmes now it has none.

    Instant news has a place but the public can only cope with so much blood and guts on their screens.

    Independent media companies will move into art programming for the iPad.
    That is where the money will be generated. No one will pay for news apart from
    a few organisations like the FT and the NYT (100,000 subscribers in the first few weeks of the paid access).

    One thing is certain: the future of media and who will succeed on the iPad will be settled by the old mantra of 'content is king' an no amount of links and interactivity
    will change that.


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