National Press Club

Steve Jobs may have reinvented journalism, biographer Isaacson tells 'Kalb Report'

March 22, 2012 | By Gilbert Klein | gilbert.klein@yahoo.com

Walter Isaacson  at "The Kalb Report"

Walter Isaacson at "The Kalb Report"

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

The late Steve Jobs may have created the technology that will revive the news business, his biographer, Walter Isaacson, told host Marvin Kalb on the latest edition of “The Kalb Report” at the National Press Club March 20.

Jobs' creation of the iPad offers is a new way of distributing news, Isaacson said. And the creation of apps, he added, provides a new way to sell news to subscribers, which will bring new revenue to journalism. The app, he said, allows for “enormous creativity” and provides a good business model.

“The glory of the digital age is you have thousands of ways to get information,” said Isaacson. “The downside has been the destruction of the business model for daily journalism. But this is a passing thing.”

Isaacson, who had been managing editor of Time magazine and president and CEO of CNN, is the author of the best-selling biography of the quirky genius who founded Apple, Inc. and transformed the high-tech industry. In a wide-ranging one-on-one interview with Kalb, Isaacson described his extraordinary experience of interviewing Jobs at least 40 times to write the biography that came out about the same time as Jobs’ death.

Jobs, he said, “is the creation myth of our time writ large.

"He created something in his garage with his friend from down the street that became an industry-changing corporation. Jobs had a roughness, petulance and impatience that could be so annoying that he was fired from his own corporation. Yet he inspired a cadre of loyal employees who saw his genius in his roughness that demanded perfection.

“Jobs was a genius even more than he was smart,” Isaacson said. “Geniuses are people who can make imaginative leaps that amount to something. Even Bill Gates did not make the leads of beauty and imagination that Steve Jobs did.”

Isaacson described how Jobs transformed the music industry by creating iTunes that allow people to buy songs off the Internet for 99 cents and play them on their iPods. He found that people would be willing to pay for Internet content if the price were right and the payment system easy.

That same concept will apply to the news industry, Isaacson said. If there were an easier payment system – and news was not given away free on the Internet -- people would be just as willing to pay for good journalism.

The age of blogging has reached saturation, he said. “I think there is now a hunger for good, reported journalism; I see it turning back.”

Yet the news business is having a hard time innovating while still providing a daily product, he said. The app may be the answer. In the first year after Jobs introduced the app, he said, it generated $2 billion in revenue. An entire industry was born instantaneously.

“This is an exciting time to go into journalism,” he said, “because there are so many new
ways to produce it. You can invent an app.”

The interview with Isaacson was the 75th show of “The Kalb Report” series launched in 1994. It is underwritten by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

The interview with Isaacson was the 75th show of “The Kalb Report” series launched in 1994. It is underwritten by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.