Why Can't All These Ideas For Content On The iPad/Tablets Also Work On The Web?

from the i'm-confused dept

Last month, at a panel in Silicon Valley on the future of journalism, one of the topics of discussion was whether or not tablet computing would be the “savior” of news, with most of the focus being on a recent video put together by Sports Illustrated of what a specialized tablet version of the magazine might look like. More recently, Wired Magazine demonstrated a working prototype of a tabletized version of the magazine. Both of these demos are certainly impressive — but I’ll say the same thing that I said about the SI demo on that panel discussion: why is the focus on the hardware? Nothing in either demo really requires a tablet. If this format is so compelling, why aren’t these publications already offering it for use on regular computers? Certainly, the ability to use touchscreen controls is nice, but you could easily replicate the basics with a mouse. If the overall format is so compelling, then what does it have to do with a tablet/iPad, specifically? Now, perhaps Wired does intend for this to be useful on other platforms, as its version is just an Adobe AIR app, and so it could function just fine on a desktop/laptop, but again, the video seems to keep focusing on the tablet as if that’s necessary. Yes, perhaps the form factor of a tablet computer makes this experience more enjoyable, but I think it’s important in judging whether or not these apps actually make sense to separate the hardware from the software, to see if either makes sense without the other, or if they really are joined at the hip.

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Comments on “Why Can't All These Ideas For Content On The iPad/Tablets Also Work On The Web?”

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ryanve (profile) says:

The touchscreen is huge.

IMO the “savior” of news is the Internet itself—regardless of whether it’s on a mobile phone, desktop, or anything in between. I think the touchscreen is huge, mainly because it’s so intuitive for the end user. If the tablet devices prove to be a hit, I think the computer user interfaces will follow having touchscreens or multitouch pads, and even gesture recognition is not that far of a stretch. The tablet readers are like “minimalist” computers really, for now, but their simple operation is a huge plus.

Anonymous Coward says:

Publishers see the iPad as digital paper, a new version of their same product. They also see Apple’s success and want to get in on it.

Funny thing is that I do not know anyone that actually wants and iPad, not even the Apple Fanboys I know.

If publishers want a bunch of cash for whatever ‘content’ they are hawking then they need to subsidize the cost of the device (iPad or whatever), just like cell phone companies do. Even then, who cares?

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Funny thing is that I do not know anyone that actually wants and iPad, not even the Apple Fanboys I know.”

Same here. I’m also amazed at how many people I see on my daily commute on the El that still have their open paperback books instead of a Kindle or other eReader. Not that I’m particularly high on those machines, but with all the talk you’d think they’d be everywhere.

Maybe it’s because I like his humor, but everytime I hear about the iPad, all I can think about is Daniel Tosh thwacking his unopened gift machine with a driver atop a conference table with his writers….

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

[…]all I can think about is Daniel Tosh thwacking his unopened gift machine with a driver atop a conference table with his writers….

Yes, and so do I. However, I think about how his writers didn’t have a punchline written after the destruction. Even when he said “Four” it seemed late, and forced. Real crappy writers.

hank mitchell (user link) says:

it what happens when designers and producers start over thinking

sorry folks but good ole’ ASCII text has emerged the winner, just look at twitter, RSS, facebook, blogs. Once the hype dies down, people will realize that it’s not worth paying $5 to read overproduced 3 week old news. The tablet might be a great stream reader, but it may also finally prove that issue-based media has died.

Yakko Warner says:


Because you can’t control the Web. The iPad is part of a closed, managed system, where they can set a price and control the delivery. On the iPad, you have to buy your app through Apple’s store and get your content only how they want you to get it — which may (read: most likely will) include payment.

If they just put their content out on The Web instead of a carefully-controlled environment such as the iPod/iPhone/iPad, then they won’t be able to control how their content is used and distributed, which means they won’t be able to get the money they deserve for it, and that will lead to the end of creation of new content and the downfall of society¡

Free Capitalist (profile) says:

Re: Control

Agreed. Monolithic systems are highly attractive to publishers looking for backwards-compatibility with 20th century thinking that went along with vertical integration (or at least direct control) of the distribution channel.

Sure, iPhones and iPads use modern, low-cost distribution (via Internet), but are demonstrably de-evolutionary for computer using society as they represent an artificial return to the “closed” systems development circa 1940’s-1990’s. Sure, they might run have JRE’s and Adobe clients… you just can’t use Java apps from their app store unless you have already consumed the hardware kool-aid. Most likely, they will also lock-down use of “open” apps on these devices as well, just like the Iphone.

This kind of virtual time-machine is perfect for the CEO who would just rather not learn anything new. They’re just hoping people still like kool-aid.

Alan Gerow (profile) says:

Re: Re: Control

It has more to do with desktop publishers missing the layout control.

An article regarding Wired’s app mentioned that the web and magazine teams are completely separate. Whereas the iPad App team are the graphic designers working in InDesign from the same files that make the magazine.

It’s not distribution control, but layout control that many publishers miss from moving from print to web.

Free Capitalist (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Control

Very interesting. To me it seems plausible that the actual editors and people who do the *work of publishing are attracted to a common form factor. Unfortunately, none of the tablet makers are trying to build standards through cooperation, they are trying to establish standards through market dominance. With the way the game is being played right now, editors will not have a reliably consistent standard format to work with until the “winner” drives everyone else from the market.

However I’m unconvinced that the CEO’s and boards of the publishers have any inkling of this technical concern. I’m much more inclined to believe that the corporations are eager to return to a more predictable, rigid model of distribution and sales and of growth forcasting.

Yakko Warner says:

Re: Re: Re: Control

Yeah, I don’t buy that excuse at all.

A competent web designer can do amazing things with stylesheets on a web page that look no worse than a printed page. There’s also Flash and PDF for even greater layout control.

I once had a magazine subscription through a service called Zinio, where it was almost identical to the printed magazine but had their own delivery mechanism. Worked fine. On a PC, no tablet required. *shrug*

Rachel @ Last Res0rt (user link) says:

We do - but folks are more willing to pay for eBooks on an iPad...

The iPad is a digital book reader, and it’s the first one where color books are an option. It’s not that the same methods for pushing content don’t work on the internet, but the utilities are different.

If I wanted to sell a digital version of my comic books, I’d either have to sell an eBook online, (and deal with not only reduced sales since a “free” online version is already available, but also a certain level of piracy), or sell a greyscale’d “Kindle” version which would be of lower quality / value. The iPad offers a touch more security and a better form factor.

SteelWolf (profile) says:

Re: We do - but folks are more willing to pay for eBooks on an iPad...

Why do people think that releasing “eBooks” or their equivalent causes “piracy” to occur? The opposite is actually true: by NOT providing a digital version of your content, you ensure that the only way people can get a digital version is through unauthorized copying.

It’s as if people believe that if they don’t create a digital copy, none will exist. In fact, if your work has any measure of popularity, a digital copy already exists. You’re just missing out on the chance to make money from the few people interested in paying for content in that medium.

romeosidvicious (profile) says:

Why it wouldn't work for the web

I have to disagree with being able to replicate the touchscreen experience with a mouse. I would have said the same thing in the past but having just an Android phone, not even a tablet, there are just things that make touchscreen better than a mouse. For instance I can setup my browser to use mouse gestures but honestly the whole hand gesture sucks. I rarely use Google Reader on the desktop anymore because the touchscreen interface, in the mobile browser, is so much easier to use and nice overall. There are a few interfaces that are easier on the my phone than on the desktop, still more that aren’t though, but those interfaces have almost killed me using those apps on the desktop because once they are better they are so much better that it’s really outrageous.

Now a web interface could be developed that made these sites digital version pretty cool but the problem is that a lot of the companies have tried it already and failed. The reason they failed, for the most part, is they tried too early and the tech wasn’t there to support making a nice, shiny, feature rich interface that was cross-platform and easy to use. A lot of them tried Flash and it sucked even though some still use it. There also appears to be a mental barrier in web design that says the site has to look like a web page of some sort. Hardly any of the media companies are breaking out of the box and using current tech to produce a user experience that would be worth paying for. I believe they could do so if they put their mind to it and used current tech. User experience is a scarcity and the right experience could be worth a little bit of jack from customers. But they seem to want to be able to, in relation to browser based interfaces, provide nothing to make the experience better and still charge which won’t work.

The other issue, which I don’t see mentioned, is the irrational fear that someone, somewhere, might cut and paste content for other people to see. This fear is relieved on the iPad (still makes me think of feminine products and my inner ten year old wants to make jokes) as they can control exactly what the user can and cannot do with the content. So from that perspective, as irrational and wrong as it is, it makes sense to provide a slick interface and user experience on this tablet to allow full media conglomerate control over their words. It’s a sad position but one that we see more and more of with no apparent hope of correcting.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Why it wouldn't work for the web

I’m not sure I get your last point. Any iPad news/magazine reader app that does not allow you to use basic copy+paste functions is going to fail. You can’t take away basic client-side functions that people have been using since nearly the dawn of text-based computers.

I will definitely never, ever use a text reading app that doesn’t allow copy/paste, and neither will any bloggers or any even vaguely computer savvy users. And even the non-savvy will rebel the first time they try to e-mail a quote to a friend, even if it’s not something they do very often.

romeosidvicious (profile) says:

Re: Re: Why it wouldn't work for the web

But they won’t rebel because this is marketed as a computer. It is marketed, in essence, as an electronic magazine and people don’t expect to cut and paste from a magazine. The unwashed masses won’t rebel because they never do. Apple made a ton of money on DRM crippled music, and still do, and they will make money on this the same way. It will all be in the marketing spin and the public will eat it up. Just look at how long it took them get cut and paste on their touch-screen phone and people didn’t rebel at that, at least not the average ever day person.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Why it wouldn't work for the web

Actually, Apple removed DRM from all their music because consumer backlash was so huge. And that’s music DRM – something a lot of casual consumers don’t understand or have never even heard of. Copy & Paste is one of the few functions nearly every user is familiar with.

I’m not familiar with the history of cut-and-paste on the iPhone, but that was clearly a technological issue, not a DRM one. The interface on the iPhone *sucks* for copy and paste too, but it is an OS-wide function. If a news reader app for the iPhone disabled it, do you really think it would be popular?

chris (profile) says:

Re: Why it wouldn't work for the web

The other issue, which I don’t see mentioned, is the irrational fear that someone, somewhere, might cut and paste content for other people to see. This fear is relieved on the iPad

thank god it’s impossible to read the screen and type it into another device or society as we know it would crumble to dust.

ryanve (profile) says:

Re: Why it wouldn't work for the web

You’re spot on about the “mental barrier”—we need to break that. The mouse is really limited—we need to put that thing in the histor-e-books and move on. I do think it could work with multitouch pads. The touchpads on new laptops are a step towards advancement because they can do more, and they’re fairly intuitive, especially if you’re used to touchscreens like the iPhone’s. Watch the video here on multitouch—there’s some pretty cool ideas about user interfaces.

Nano says:


One of the reasons not all this ideas work on a computer specially as they relate to magazines is that not every body is willing to sit on a desk in front of a monitor moving a mouse to read a magazine. The iPad provides a similar way of interacting with a magazine, like reading it sitting at a couch, or just a more relax way plus the touch screen provides that feeling. I have several digital magazines on my computer and I havent been able to read them. The ones I have on my iphone thou they are small I found myself reading them more, I can imagine the reading experience on the ipad.

jsl4980 (profile) says:

Focus on DRM/control not hardware

Their focus isn’t on the hardware it’s on the control and DRM that comes along with the platform. They think the web is evil because they can’t control everything. I’m assuming they’re embracing the iCrap because they think DRM will be their mystical savior and lead to new income.

If they gave away this layout on the web for free then why would anyone pay huge prices for the same crap on an iPad? It’s not smart on their part, it just seems to be their direction.

Richard (profile) says:

Cars v Buses

Because you can’t control (the Web) people driving their own cars. The (iPad)bus is part of a closed, managed system, where they can set a price and control the delivery. On the (iPad)bus, you have to buy your (app through Apple’s store) ticket and (get your content only how they want you to get it) only go to the places the bus goes to — which may ((read: most likely will) include payment). be the places where they have set up bars, restaurants etc

Free Capitalist (profile) says:

Re: A point a lot are missing

Agreed. The hardware is underwhelming and I don’t really see a demand from users to really embrace the tablet form factor. However I don’t think use-case or market demand are really even entering in the thinking of publishers expounding the tablet as “their savior”.

The common thread amongst the tablet developers is the desire for an artificially locked down distribution system for premium content. Everyone wants to become the “iTunes” of e-books, and are starting with the same hardware/app+media store lock-down methodology. Even those who will permit use of PDF’s and open apps are trying to put up their own proprietary store-front and lock the distribution.

It’s the closed channels that publishers find so attractive.

McBeese says:

It will work on the Web, but display is only half of it...

Can you create the same display and display control features on the Web, independent of devices? Absolutely. However, form factor is a critical factor for some types of media consumption. If I have the WSJ on an iPad, I can read it in the morning while I’m sitting on the toilet giving birth to another illegal file-sharer. Pretty hard to do that with an iPhone or a Laptop. The same is true when I’m kicked back on the couch.

However, If I’m sitting at my desk, I don’t want the content on an iPad, I want it on my computers. I think that means the best platform is the Web, with some device-sensing format smarts. If it’s only aimed at one or the other, that’s missed opportunity.

rrtzmd (profile) says:

Publishers are desperate...

…dwindling ads, dwindling subscriptions, dwindling readership…publishers are desperate to grab onto anything that might resemble a life buoy in terms of generating cash flow…hence, the excitement of Apple and the possibility of an “imags” shop…they simply don’t get it, however…in a world flooded with information — FREE information — via the internet, the question becomes one of offering SPECIAL information that people are willing to pay for…that’s a tough one…music can be listened to repeatedly…how many time does anyone need or want to read a magazine article?

mjh (profile) says:

Turning the Page on the PDF

Content can work on the web, through simple, easy-to-use e-publishing software that replicates the familiar experience of traditional paper-based reading, but in the faster, feature-rich multimedia setting of the digital world. The open expanses of the Web and the new social networks, rather than the proprietary limits of any one hardware device or publisher’s portfolio, represent the real digital future. And this larger, browser-based trend will set the ground rules for content creation and distribution

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