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
    Hephaestus (profile), 29 Mar 2010 @ 11:56am

    I agree with Little 'Miss Independent'

    The iPad is not something I will purchase. I think this desperation and frantic this will save us attitude oozing from the news paper and magazines is going to lead them to a major disappointment.

    Peoples habits have changed, they have gone back to how they were pre printing press, where you got news from multiple people and talked and commented on what you have heard. Basically we have had 560 years (1450 AD invention of the printing press) of print distribution as a blip in an evolutionary history going back a million years. It is in our nature to socialize, it is a survival trait, it is genetic. Now that there devices and web based apps to socialize and comment, spoon fed non interactive media is slowly disappering.

    Its one of the things that newspapers and magazines dont get. It took 6-12 hour for a comment I posted on the LA Times to show up. I am wondering how many people had to authorize its posting. That sort of behavior doesnt breed any sort of community, loyalty, or brand loyalty. Until they get that they will continue to slowly crumble as an industry. Wired on the other hand is beginning to get it right.

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