A whack on the head from Maslow's hammer

I thought we were beyond this, but no: it seems that quite a number of people who are old enough to know better are making silly pronouncements to the effect that Tablet Is The New Print.

This calls for a mind-expanding whack on the side of the head, preferably applied with Maslow's hammer. Abraham Maslow was the psychologist famous for his "hierarchy of needs." He also was famous for saying "If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail." That's called Maslow's hammer, or sometimes "the law of the instrument."

If you're a designer, you tend to see the world as a series of design problems. If you're a newspaper journalist, you tend to look at the Internet and think of "online newspapers." That, by the way, was the chief product visioning error of the period from 1995 to today, an era when non-newspaper Internet companies got insanely wealthy and newspaper companies took a nosedive into the dirt.

So now we have the tablet. The iPad is not the first, but it's the first to come reasonably close to getting it right from a usability perspective, and it will lead to a new breed of devices that will supplant the personal computer for a large percentage of the population.

Old media people are really, really excited about the iPad. Many believe that it heralds a return to the form, the business model and the look, if not the feel, of printed newspapers and magazines.

This is foolish and self-defeating, as we should have learned from 15 years of operating on the Web. The Tablet Is Not The New Print. That's not how the world works.

If you're a Web person you're probably thinking: "of course, the tablet is the new Web."

It is, but a word of caution is in order. This is not the old Web on new devices. It's not even the old Web minus Flash and minus all the viruses, malware and other insanity of the fading Microsoft era. It's something far more intensely personal, more tactile, and -- for more reasons than merely Apple's failure to support multitasking -- focused.

But it's still the Web with all its interactivity and social interaction. And it's still the Web, searchable, real-time, practically infinite. It's not a restoration of the scarcity that made fortunes for print empire-builders from Hearst and Pulitzer to Rupert Murdoch.

Laying out splashy pages with InDesign and cramming them into a 40-minute downloadable iPad app might make you feel good, but it's not the future of journalism.


...with Maslow's Hammer! I have to laugh at all these newspaper people thinking they can get readers to pay money for apps to get the same content that's free on the websites. And if they think the iPad is new way to erect the paywall, they will find out really fast that they will have the same old problem, and waste more time in a losing race for relevancy.