Tech vs. Trees: Mini iPad rumored to launch, celebrity drama benefits print magazines, 'e-Singles' resurrect '80s teen novel series, Washington Post resists paywalls

LOS ANGELES , July 19, 2012 () – A roundup of recent trends pitting technology against the printed word:

Tech: Apple rumored to unveil mini iPad by year's end

After Google unveiled its Nexus 7 that’s cheaper and smaller than the iPad, The New York Times reported on July 15 that Apple could be launching its own version of a smaller, cheaper iPad just in time for the holidays. The so-called mini iPad is said to have a 7.85-inch screen compared with the 9.7-inch screen of the existing iPad and the 7-inch screen of the Nexus 7, the report said, citing a former engineer at the company. The device may also be marketed as the latest version of iPod Touch rather than a mini iPad, though Steve Jobs had questioned the practicality of a smaller iPad, going so far as to say a 7-inch tablet would only be good for surfing the Web in the bathroom. Jobs, however, wasn’t above changing his mind, and a smaller, cheaper iPad would be consistent with Apple’s previous marketing strategies of offering various products from the same line at different price points.

Trees: “TomKat” drama boosts celebrity print magazine sales

Celebrity magazines came roaring back from a sales slump this year after the much-publicized split between Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, according to sources cited in the New York Post on July 12. Magazines that splashed the so-called TomKat split across their covers saw big surges, such as People’s 27% year-over-year jump to 1.4 million in newsstand sales in the week of July 1, while competitors Us Weekly and In Touch also saw rising newsstand sales to 720,000 and 632,000, respectively. In contrast, magazines that eschewed the TomKat covers, such as Life & Style and Star, showed lower sales. Sources said the category had suffered a 22% year-over-year decline in industrywide newsstand sales during the first half of 2012, having fallen to 3.5 million copies a week for most weeks at the beginning of the year compared with 4.5 million copies a week last year. The high-profile split has shot that number back up to nearly 4 million copies, according to an executive.

Tech: Washington Post resists charging for online content

As the nation’s largest newspapers increasingly adopt paywalls to stave off shrinking revenues, The Washington Post’s publisher Don Graham has no plans to charge readers for its digital content, he revealed in an interview with author Walter Isaacson, reported Giga Omni Media on July 18. Graham noted that restricting the paper’s digital content won’t benefit its print publication since more than 95% of its online readers don’t live in its subscription area of Washington D.C.—suggested by its 17 million monthly unique visitors compared with a print readership of 500,000. The paper prefers to experiment with new media formats and platforms such as its Facebook social-read app—in other words, “go where the readers are,” Graham said, whereas paywalls rely on a traditional media model of getting readers to come to the paper’s website. Some have questioned the strategy, such as Ryan Chittum’s May 11 column in Columbia Journalism Review, which pointed out the first-quarter $23 million loss and 7% decline in revenue in the Post’s newspaper division. He wrote, “The Post has diluted the quality of the newspaper, shrunk it, and asked readers to pay three-quarters more for it—all while leaving the barn door wide open online.”

Tech: '80s teen novel series gets new life, storylines as "e-Singles"

Girls who grew up in the '80s and '90s following the charmed lives of perennially 16-year-old twins Elizabeth and Jessica from the Sweet Valley High novel series can now revisit their favorite characters—13 years later—in new storylines published digitally as “e-Singles.” Writer Francine Pascal has described the resurrected series as a chance to “go deep into their new lives with no holds barred,” she was quoted in Good E-Reader on July 16. She added, “I figure at thirty, I can make them as sexy as I want, sexy enough to make Desperate Housewives look like a Sunday sermon.” New e-Singles will be released every week until the series is over, and St. Martin’s press will also reissue 12 Sweet Valley novels in October.

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