Joyce Terhaar

From the Executive Editor: Tablets are a game changer for readers

Joyce Terhaar
Joyce Terhaar

How many of you opened a gift this morning to discover a new iPad, Kindle Fire or Nook inside?

For those of you who did, do you plan to use it to read your news?

Amazon and Barnes & Noble marketed their Kindle and Nook tablets aggressively in December as they worked to compete with Apple's iPad, offering free shipping among other promotions. Amazon announced in mid-December that it was selling well more than 1 million of the devices each week, proclaiming them the hottest gift item of the season.

Canalys, an international market analysis firm, predicted that total tablet shipments would reach 59 million by the end of 2011, with the iPad dominating sales despite competition from the cheaper Kindle and Nook.

These sales may accelerate changes we're already seeing in readership and news distribution. This past year has been one of widespread experimentation within the print media, with numerous companies trying online paywalls, introducing subscription e-editions (interactive or not) and pumping up journalism online.

We've done our share of experimentation, all while continuing to develop our primary mission of watchdog reporting. Google's year-end study of search terms shows we're doing well online; The Bee was one of only nine U.S. newspapers whose name was the top search term in its market.

Reading habits are evolving for news junkies and casual readers alike, as we try new sources even as we hang on to comfortable routines.

On a recent visit to family in Minnesota, I watched my dad read his Minneapolis Star Tribune with a giant magnifying glass, even though he could choose to get a subscription on his Kindle and bump up the type size. He likes the printed newspaper.

Many of you have told me you do, too. And so do I. But I also subscribe to a variety of e-news publications, including The Bee. I was quite happy to be able to read The Bee on my iPad during a recent trip to Spain, yet when I'm home I still read my printed paper.

What I like about tablets is that you can have the best of print and online. The tablet apps I've seen tend to be edited and organized so that it's easy to see the difference between the news of the moment vs. the day's top story or deepest investigative report. It's great for visual journalism as well; rather than one photo, you can view an entire gallery or video.

(Right now, The Bee's iPad and desktop e-edition is a digital copy of the newspaper. Look for an updated, interactive version in 2012.)

Print or online, though, it doesn't matter if the journalism isn't worth your time.

Throughout 2011 Bee reporters broke news at sacbee.com and then worked to provide deeper context in print. The Bee sued powerful institutions to protect your right to public information, winning the right to details about Sacramento County public pensions and state Assembly members' spending.

We took on the powerful throughout the year, revealing that a top NATO general and former California National Guard adjutant general double-dipped to enrich his salary; that the Nevada County district attorney was beholden to a loan broker under investigation for bilking investors; that Twin Rivers school district police officers sold T-shirts that said, "U raise 'em, we cage 'em."

In today's paper, in a collaboration with the nonprofit investigative group California Watch, we use an original database to explore influence at the state Capitol.

I'm looking forward to 2012 not just because of new technology that will allow us to commit journalism in more creative ways, but also because of reporting already under way.

We'll be publishing investigations into wrongdoing within a major state agency, practices within a federal agency that will cause a stir, and questionable actions by a top legal authority in a California county.

You can read them in print, online or on a just-opened e-reader.

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