Apple's iPad = Less Money for Writers?

Jan 282010
 

ipadFirst there was print, where all we needed was the written word. Then blogs, where writers learned to become publishers, photographers and marketers. Now there’s the new iPad from Apple, where publishers are salivating over a new way to imbed video into their products.

Think about it. Will assignments from magazines soon include video? If so, it’s exciting for readers to see as part of an article or recipe, for example, exactly what stiff peaks mean when whipping egg whites, or how to sear a steak. Yes, we’ve got those videos on the Internet now, but so far they haven’t been part of our freelance writing assignments or book deals.

While it’s clear that the iPad is a cool new development, it doesn’t necessarily bode well for publishers or authors compared to print. According to the New York Times, royalties will initially be less. And “Publishers acknowledge that digital content should be priced lower than the print content,” said Carolyn Reidy, chief executive of Simon & Schuster.

Oh joy. Yet another digital medium where we can be paid less to do more.

My three questions for you are: Do you think publishers will pay us to produce video, or will it be a separate discipline, like photography? Are we writers willing to learn this skill? (For those of you already producing video, you’re ahead of the curve.) And, am I just being a crab about this cool new medium?

  13 Responses to “Apple's iPad = Less Money for Writers?”

  1. I think it’s necessary to distinguish the medium from the technology used to access said medium. Writers who publish online are already using video as part of their work, albeit usually with other people’s videos. To my mind, the question is how does accessing an article online differ when using an iPad as opposed to any other portable device such as a laptop or smart mobile phone. The screen real estate is larger, and presumably easier to read (and watch videos). But I honestly don’t think the iPad has completely obviated the need for the newspaper just yet. I can read the SF Chronicle on the BART and leave it lying around for the next reader. I can also read the paper on an iPad, but I’d be worried about breaking it, dropping it or having it stolen from me. If I could get a daily newspaper printed on some form of smartpaper (like the intelligent, computerized paper recently shown in the Battlestar Galactica prequel “Caprica”), I probably would.

    Still, mobile technology is laggy when it comes to playing video. I avoid watching videos on my iPhone because I can’t stand waiting for the damn things to load. At least a newspaper is still there to read when the BART stalls somewhere in Oakland just before crossing the Bay, as it invariably does. Most mobile devices still fail to get a clear signal under such circumstances. There goes your video and the article in which it’s embedded. Were you wanting to click to the next page? Ah, too late!

    All that said, I do think writers who publish online might want to expand their skill set if only to stay relevant. Publishers will take any lame excuse to pay people less than they ought to; the print vs. web canard is just a symptom of the industry’s failure to stay current. It’s offensive and foolish to pay online writers less money while attempting to create a strong online presence. If the idea is to create a more compelling web experience, then surely the writing being published online should be worth the money that pays for it. You get what you pay for, and if the publishing industry is paying less for online work, they’re expecting less. Not the best way to “synergize” one’s web presence. The publishing industry needs to make a fundamental shift in philosophy: web publishing is not secondary, or less than print publishing. Rather it’s a different way of distributing information, which requires a vastly different approach to the readership, the “content” (I hate that term), profits, advertising, and so on. Publishers need to stop dabbling in WWW as though it’s some passing phase, a cesspool populated by idiots and twelve year-olds. People will pay for quality (video game industry, anyone?), and quality means paying people to produce good work, including writers, photographers and, er, the folks who make videos (videographers?).

    • Wow Shelly, thanks for such a thoughtful post. Smartpaper is a cool idea.

      Good point about publishers needing to accept that web content is no longer secondary. Maybe if they did we would get paid decently for creating it.

  2. No, you’re not being a crab about this new medium. Shows some frustration, but it’s the reality of uncharted territory of current media trends.
    On the other hand, and I hate to say it, maybe it has something to do with “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Think about the 75 word limit on Sunset recipes… technology has contributed to our insatiable desire for short and fast information.

    • Hey Rosemary. Are you suggesting that maybe publishing is moving to even more visuals — now that we can add video — and further away from text? Boy, that’s even more depressing. But I can see it.

  3. Yes more video in publishing. I was thinking of utube and tools like the Flip Video that so easily allow anyone to visually record rather than pen stories and events.

    • Okay, you’re on, Rosemary. Does that mean you’re willing to master video, just as you have mastered recipe development? Just curious.

  4. First, my husband has worked in professional publishing for many years with both paper and on-line publications. When I asked him if he believed that on-line will replace paper publications he gave a resounding “No!” It serves a different purpose even for the same group of people. Yes, one can have videos on-line and not on paper, but I think people still go to on-line publications for something different, something quicker. I think that if paper publications whether magazines, newspapers or books, do not try and reduce their range to quick reads like one turns to and finds on-line then they will always have the audience. We then get down to pay for paper vs on-line content. Again, what are they looking for in length and quality?

    I also think that no matter what “they” say, there is still a huge market for paper, for something one can hold in one’s hand: I can find any number of Dorie Greenspan recipes on line but I still really wanted to buy and own the book. And as much as “they” claim more and more people are no longer reading books because of internet, I am still seeing all the bookstores in Nantes from the huge multi-media one to the smaller bookstores packed with people and cash register lines out the door.

    And then there is video: for professional publications, do writers or journalists really take their own photos? It seems to me that being a writer, a photographer or a videographer/filmmaker are 3 different and separate professions. What kind of quality can we expect if the same person was required to do – and master – all 3?

    • I sure hope you’re right, Jamie, because print pays better than web, so far, so it would be good if it would stick around as a medium.

      Re writers and journalists taking their own photos: food bloggers do. It comes with the territory. They are probably the group that’s the least intimidated by the idea of video. However, my friend Greg Patent, who turned 70 last year, records a video every week for his town’s newspaper, where he has a column.

  5. And just as I clicked “Submit Comment” I received an e-mail from Apple announcing the iPad! LOL! Too funny! Should I take this as some kind of omen?

  6. I am absolutely looking to watch for the Apple iPad, and I am enjoyed to see what kinds of appz and games will be created for it. I just don’t get the idea some of the nitpicky criticisms in this blog. Size of the bezel?? Puh-leeze!

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