As a dedicated reader of newspapers since I was 5 years old, it’s really sad to see the downfall of this great American tradition. Print subscriptions are way down, ad revenue is drying up, and Americans are becoming more and more accustomed to the up-to-date news found on the Internet. The New York Times (NYT) stock is down below $4 a share. Gannett (GCI), the owner of USA Today is down to $2 a share. McClatchy (MNI), the owner of papers like the Miami Herald, The Sacramento Bee, and the Charlotte Observer, is down to $.45 a share. Mike Simonton, an industry analyst, says “In 2009 and 2010, all the two newspaper markets will become one-newspaper markets and you will start to see the one-newspaper markets become no-newspaper markets" (NY Times).
In the end, we all knew that mainstream reliance on newspapers couldn’t last forever but it’s still hard to watch. As if newspapers didn’t have enough to worry about, now they are about to get hit by the Apple (AAPL) train. Reports that Apple is ordering 10-inch touchscreens have been confirmed by Dow Jones, The Wall Street Journal, and Reuters. Many are speculating that these will be used for Apple’s new netbook but I think this device will be much different than what we’re used to seeing in the netbook space. As Apple has done with the Mac, the iPod, and the iPhone, I expect it to revolutionize this sector of the market.
There currently exists a major void of access with the Internet. I’ll call this void the newspaper void. Newspapers are the perfect size to read and they’re portable. The iPhone screen is not the perfect size to sit down and read a newspaper, I’m good for ten minutes of reading on the iPhone screen; anything more is too much for my eyes to handle. It’s great as a quick reference, but it is primarily a phone. My laptop has a good sized screen but the clunky keyboard and lack of universal WiFi access make it hard to use as a newspaper replacement. This new netbook/tablet/E-book reader/whatever you want to call it will fill a niche. Users will be able to take it on the subway, take it in the car, take it on the back porch, take it to breakfast, take it to the pool, take it wherever you would normally go to read a magazine or newspaper.
Apple has seen enough evidence that the netbook space is big enough for them to enter. IT research company Gartner expects PC sales to drop by 12% in 2009, but they don’t think that drop will come from netbooks. In fact, they are forecasting netbook sales to grow from 11.7 million units sold in 2008 to 21 million in 2009. In this recession, consumers are shopping price and Apple will benefit from having a sub $600 alternative. I would imagine that this device will come with a built in 3G Internet connection so that universal internet access is not a problem. It won’t have a keyboard like the other netbooks do, and it won’t be made to do much more than read the news from the Internet, watch television shows and movies, and play games from the app store. Once again, Apple is the true innovator of the technology revolution going on in this day and age.
Disclosure: Long AAPL.