Predictions

by Marcus Carab


Filed Under:
communications, ipad, publishing



Are Publishers Putting Too Much Stock In The iPad, Or Are They Just Doing It Wrong?

from the either-way-their-hopes-are-too-high dept

Jim Lillicotch points us to a post by MediaPost blogger Steve Smith, who was surprised by his 18-year-old daughter's immediate dismissal of the iPad. It may be, as he speculates, an omen of the device's future in general, but he also makes some points specifically related to the publishing industry that are worth highlighting.

"I need a keyboard. Even my phone has that." It is really all about input for her, and her focus on interactivity underscores a glaring limitation of the iPad. It is primarily a media consumption device, not an interactive device. Publishers think of digital merely as a delivery vehicle, but users think of digital as a communications and interactive platform. After a life of leaning in, why would she want to lean back and consume content just to make media companies' business models work for them?

Smith lists several drawbacks to touch-screen tablet input that probably haven't occurred to those who, like me, have never gotten the chance to use one. I still think that with the right interface and after some design iterations, iPads (and other tablets) will be excellent interactive devices, but Smith is dead right in his assessment of how publishers view them. The iPad magazine demos that some have shown off are compelling and cool, but they are mostly one-way media. This is exacerbated by the obsession with native apps, which Smith notes are much less likely to explode on the iPad the way they did on the iPhone:

Unlike the iPhone, where an app can clearly trump a mobile Web site experience, the iPad makes full Web browsing much more viable. Early audience research I have seen suggests that for even those interested in the iPad, Web browsing and email are rated far above app downloads as the device's main attraction. And so, publisher apps will be competing with their own Web sites.

This is a point we've made before: everything in these fancy magazine apps can be replicated in the browser (there is one small problem to do with scrolling that remains, but even that has nearly been solved). Publishers should be working to ensure that their product—whether it's books, magazines or newspapers—is available on every platform with minimum hassle, instead of building closed apps that frustratingly trap the user. Nobody is loyal to one publication anymore, and nobody wants a dozen different news and magazine apps littering their tablet or smartphone—they want to browse the web the way they always have. It's time for publishers to stop trying to alter user behaviour, and start learning from it.


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  1. icon
    Marcus Carab (profile), 29 Mar 2010 @ 11:41am

    Re:

    What things? When it comes to multimedia publishing, I think you'll find that there is very little that cannot be replicated in the browser.

    This post isn't about the "browser as OS" question, it's specifically about the best platform for publishing. Did you launch a Techdirt app to get here, or did you simply plug in the address? Would you like to have apps for every blog, newspaper and magazine you read online?

    Consider all the things that readers can't do inside apps: easily sharing links through facebook/twitter, jumping back and forth between multiple sites/sources while writing a blog post, quickly grabbing a paragraph of text to quote somewhere else... Basically, apps break ALL the things users are used to after years of consuming news and information online.

    Will browsers replace apps entirely? I'm not really sure, though Photoshop Online and similar services have convinced me it's possible. But when it comes to publishing I can't think of a single sensible reason to lock content up in a native app when the web already presents a powerful open platform.

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