Wednesday, February 03, 2010

COLUMN: Buy an iPad, feed a journalist!

As my regular readers know, I have a long history of trying to get the Apple corporation to send me free electronic equipment in exchange for a mention in this column. I have been wholly unsuccessful at this from the very beginning, when I tried to get them to ship me an Apple II to review for my elementary school newspaper. I suspect Steve Jobs may have something against the mimeograph.

More recently, I’ve tried to get them to send me test models of the various iPods (40 GB, Touch, Shuffle, Nano with Pocketknife, etc.), but they continue to insist on sending them places like PC World and CNET — places that cover, you know, technology, rather than the things I write about, such as when we’re most likely to be overrun by killer zombies. This is of course ironic, since technology reporters will be among the first to go when the zombies finally do attack.

But now Apple has introduced the iPad (motto: Enough With The Feminine Hygiene References Already), its new tablet computer — which, beyond being the latest cool-looking electronic device that I can’t afford, has another, much more important designation: It might just save newspapers. Also, I’m pretty sure that in a pinch you could slice meat on it.

As you may have heard, we in the newspaper business have been looking for ways to turn around our struggling industry. So far we’ve come up with the following ideas:

1) After readers have viewed a certain number of stories on the Internet, charge them … one meeeelllion dollars!

2) Print only pictures of good-looking people. Oh, we’re already doing that? OK, good-looking naked people.

3) Tell people they really should subscribe if they ever want to see Fluffy alive again.

Our main problem, of course, is that people won’t pay to read news on their computer, seeing as how online news is self-generated for free from the dust that gathers in the joint fittings on the Internet tubes. But the iPad isn’t a computer — it’s a slick, slate-like device that does computing, yes, but whose underlying purpose is much more all-encompassing: namely, to make people feel more like Captain Picard. (You know who you are.)

With the iPad, you can take your local newspaper — along with the Web, videos, photos, the latest Lady Gaga single, etc. — into your Starship’s ready room, or anywhere else you want to go. (Well, except the bathtub … boy, did Steve Wozniak find that out the hard way.) And it’s better than a laptop, because you don’t have to unfold it — if we could harness the energy spent every day on folding and unfolding laptops, we could power … well, not an iPad, but probably one of those Itty Bitty Book Lights.

But why, if people won’t pay 75 cents for their newspaper, will they pay $829 plus $30 per month for a loaded iPad? Because it’s got an “i” in front of its name, that’s why! Sure, it sounds silly, but when the thing goes on sale, throngs of people will line up to get it, and CNN will air footage of the skinny, latte-addled hipster who claws his way to the front of the line to buy the first one. (His name is Hugo.)

And then, the part that will warm the hearts of newspaper people the world over: Thousands of consumers will fire it up and immediately use their credit cards to order exclusive iPad subscriptions to the New York Times. And when I say “New York Times” I of course mean, “one of the 50-plus available fart-noise apps.” Sure, that they’ll pay for.

Still, baby steps — we didn’t obliterate the publishing industry overnight, and we don’t expect the iPad to save it for at least three or four more weeks. In the meantime, Apple, I’ll be waiting. You can send me my free iPad in care of this newspaper.

Er, for the time being.

This column appeared originally in North Shore Sunday. Peter Chianca is a managing editor for GateHouse Media New England. Follow him on Twitter at To receive At Large by e-mail, write to, with the subject line “SUBSCRIBE.”

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