To online magazines and newspapers print look-alikes, I say ixnay

Written by John Dodge, Contributor

Remember those magazine "readers" a few years ago which mimicked print magazines online? Zinio is one. Another was Olive. There were others, too.

The Boston Globe is just getting around to something called the GlobeReader which is an online version that resembles the dead tree edition that is suffering so much. You use them on a PC or a notebook with a decent size display.

The idea is to capture the market for...well, let me think for a second. That's right, there is no market for online readers as we know them and I'm not sure there ever was.

If print publishing is headed down the tubes and we know it is, why on earth would consumers want these PC readers? The answer is simple: they don't. After a dozen or more years of regularly using its web site Boston.com, the Globe actually thinks I will convert to a reader! I already get the print edition which is enough of what it is for me (I still like it). Why would I want a online reader? They smack of print publishers still in denial about online.

Frankly, I think the reader is a prelude to a paper-less Boston Globe (wanna buy it? NYT is selling it), but it's wrong-headed to think that the print look and feel should simply be transferred to the Internet. Online should be exploited for all its worth.

Maybe the GlobeReader is a warm-up for the Kindle DX reader which starts shipping in 2-3 weeks, according to Amazon. Perhaps when print goes away sooner rather than later, subscribers will be weaned off it using the GlobeReader. I would hate to think that's the starting point with something as potentially industry-changing as the Kindle DX. It's foolhardy to try and recreate print online.

I tried the reader, got tangled up with its clumsy password protection and only got as far as story previews, but the fact remains I neither need nor want it.

I don't fault the Globe for trying to sell content which it may eventually try to do via the Kindle DX or the GlobeReader. Someone's got to pay for great journalism if consumers still want it. Whether they do or not, professional journalism is a pillar of democracy. You'd miss it if it went away.

I've had some experience with readers at magazines where I've served editor in chief. At one 7-8 years ago with no print counterpart, its sole purpose was to serve as a vessel for ads because some advertisers still did not have online materials. It failed despite award-winning content.

A newspaper online

More recently, a focus group of readers to a person told us they did not like readers or being forced to use one (on the hand, the loved the real deal...print).

I love and occasionally write for the Globe and over the past 12 months while going through life-threatening financial turmoil, it's done some terrific stories. When I miss them in print, I find them just fine at Boston.com. With no Boston Globe and all its reporting feet on the street, local corruption would be rampant. It already is.

A reader is not going to save the Globe.

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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