PDF as the new model for newspapers? Not likely

This blog has about three readers who are probably waiting for me to rip into this MediaLife magazine article about publications that are delivered online as “digital versions”. That’s because, these three readers know I used to be rather hostile (I’m not going to point to all of them, but the rants started in 2002) to the whole notion of digital replications of print publications. However, I’ve mellowed as digital versions have become less like PDFs (which the article insists on calling them) as more things like embedded video of hyperlinks are now included in them. I’ve even found several instances where I’ve recommended they be used to display a printed product online or to distribute a digital replica of a magazine to a special audience. Also, as I’ve noted, they can be delivered via RSS.

However, I don’t believe even their most zealous evangelists (of which, those three readers of this blog I referred to above are among) argue that they’re going to replace newspapers (or magazines) or are a replacement business model for them. They are an additional means to distribute several forms of expression some people lump together and call “content,” however, even their in their most perfect incarnation, they are still (and this has been my long-time beef) a replication of an old media for those who can’t handle new metaphors.

They appeal to people who want to see what the print version of the publication looks like — International readers, for example — but the information and “content” found in a newspaper and magazine can be better distributed and read online using other technologies and interfaces and experiences and metaphors than those provided in a PDF — no matter how souped-up and flash-enhanced it is.

Again, I’m not arguing that digital versions of magazines will not find a place — especially when my predicted 8×10 wireless iPod-like device appears — and the long-heralded ‘e-book’ platforms actually happen — or when that e-paper that’s supposed to fold up and fit in your pocket happens.

In the meantime, the key sentence of that article is this quote (my bolding): Publishers see real potential as the PDF is highly portable and easy to print on short notice.” This has, primarily (sorry guys) been a technology pushed by publishers, not pulled by readers.

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