The ‘Death-of-the-Web’ meme rides again

This morning’s Observer column.

It’s possible, of course, that the Anderson-Wolff scare story was the product of an innocent mistake. But let us, for a moment, refuse them the benefit of the doubt. The core of their argument is that the popularity of apps as on iPhone and Android phones signals the death knell of the web. The marketplace has spoken, they write. When it comes to the applications that run on top of the net, people are starting to choose quality of service. We want TweetDeck to organise our Twitter feeds because it s more convenient than the Twitter web page. The Google Maps mobile app on our phone works better in the car than the Google Maps website on our laptop. And we’d rather lean back to read books with our Kindle or iPad app than lean forward to peer at our desktop browser.

That’s the message. Now, who is the messenger? Answer: Condé Nast, the publishing conglomerate that owns Wired — as well as the New Yorker, GQ and Vanity Fair. The web has posed a serious threat to their business model as it has to almost all print publishers because they have thus far failed to find a way to get people to pay serious money for online content.

The arrival of iPhone and, later, iPad apps was the first good news that magazine conglomerates had received in a decade. Why? Because, in contrast to the Wild West Web, apps are tightly controlled by Apple and consumers willingly pay for them. As a result, print publishers have fallen on the apps idea like ravening wolves…