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The Fox and the rotten Apple

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This month saw Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation team up with the Apple Computer Corporation to launch the world's first digital-only newspaper called The Daily.

This newspaper is not available on the web at all. It's solely available as a paid app for the Apple iPad for US$39.99 a year, or US$0.99 per week. This new iThingie-only newspaper will have its own staff of approximately a hundred journalists.

Personally, I don't give a rat's ass what Rupert Murdoch puts out. I'm not going to buy it.

As well, as a promoter of free and open source software, I will not be buying any iThingies either. Apple (along with Microsoft) represent everything about proprietary software that I oppose.

What concerns me, though, is that this "device walling" may become a trend amongst large media outlets.

We are used to some media outlets placing their content behind "paywalls" where you can't see the content online unless you sign up for the outlet's paid service. This makes the paywalled content unsearchable by any of the major web search engines -- searchable content really urks Murdoch!

It also makes it impossible to link to this content via other websites, blogs and social networking tools like Facebook, Twitter and Identi.ca.

With the launch of The Daily, for the first time we are seeing media content available only via a single vendor's devices, namely those made by Apple!

What if other major media outlets were to start doing the same thing? What if you could only get New York Times content on a Windows mobile phone? What if you could only get Globe and Mail content on a Blackberry device? Or how about only being able to read The Guardian on an Amazon Kindle e-book reader?

Rather than being able to view content on whatever device we want, we would be forced to choose our devices based on the content that was available for that particular device.

As well, it would be impossible to share interesting content with our friends.

Even with an old dead tree newspaper, it's technically possible to grab a pair of scissors, cut out the article, photocopy it and share it. Or even lower tech, just stick it up on a bulletin board by the water cooler using a good old fashioned thumb tack.

Many of the new devices on the market are simply a means to get people to stop engaging in the simple human act of sharing, using methods such as Digital Restrictions Management technologies. The media, software and device manufacturers are spending billions of dollars trying to restrict and criminalize a basic human impulse.

The News Corp/Apple deal takes all of this one step further by restricting the sharing of content because you haven't bought the right digital device.

Large media outlets are struggling to find new ways to pay the bills and make money for their shareholders in this new world of digital content. Some have been successful while others have not.  However, this Murdoch/Jobs model of doing things is particularly nasty for end users.

I hope it's a dismal failure.

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